In 2018, around 1,100 prisoners were allowed to return home for around six-days to celebrate Christmas with their families. In 2019 a similar number is set to be seeing their temporary release from prison. The prisoners receiving the opportunity include those who have been imprisoned for committing violent crimes. While the chance to go home for the holidays is seen as an integral step towards rehabilitation, justice campaigners find it to be an insult to the families of the victims.
The "release on temporary licence" (ROTL) scheme was planned to allow prisoners to start their rehabilitation process. Under the ROTL scheme, prisoners are allowed to leave the prison unsupervised for short spans of time. The prisoners have to return to prison to complete their sentences after their temporary leave.
The released prisoners' freedom is restricted by certain clauses. Prison Service claims that prisoners were allowed to return home after "robust risk assessment." Prisoners have to stick to curfew timings, travel restrictions, and restrictions on the people they can contact. The ROTL conditions have a more than 99% compliance rate.
The research director at the Centre for Crime Prevention think-tank, David Spencer, is not on board with the ROTL scheme. Spencer believes that the increasing number of inmates being released increases the chances of an incident.
Conservative Member of Parliament, Philip Davies, had stronger words of objection for the ROTL scheme. Davies stated that ROTL allowed murderers to spend Christmas with their families while their victims' families would be deprived of their loved ones. Davies claimed that the scheme was a mockery of the justice system and if prisoners wanted to be home for Christmas, they should not have committed heinous crimes.
The Daily Mail recalled the backlash faced by the ROTL scheme back in 2014. Inmate Michael 'Skull-Cracker' Wheatley in May 2014, had been given a day release. He failed to return to prison and proceeded to steal £18,350 from a building society. The Standford Hill prison inmate was apprehended five-days after he went rogue. Wheatley was handed a life sentence for his actions, which demonstrated how dangerous the ROTL scheme can be for the public.