Pressure on British jails creaking at the seams could be eased with thousands of prisoners set to be released under an early release scheme, it has been reported.
Governors at British jails have been told to review cases under the home detention curfew scheme (HDC) where prisoners can return home with an electronic tag and a curfew.
The Times reported that in 2016, more that under this scheme 9,041 were released but over 35,000 missed out, according to a paper by the Ministry of Justice (MoJ).
It is hoped that reviewing those cases can help ease the record levels of violence and drug use among the bulging prison population which is nearly 87,000, almost double what it was 25 years ago.
One prison source told the Times: "This is all about jails being full every single night. It is not conducive to stability for prisons to be in this state."
Under the scheme, prisoners with terms of between three months and four years could be released early after a risk assessment after which they would be tagged and have to be at home between 7pm and 7am. Those convicted of serious crimes like murder and terrorism are not eligible.
The paperwork required for the scheme has been streamlined which is hoped to make it easier to implement the scheme. Out of 15,469 prisoners eligible for HDC in the final quarter of 2016, only 2,329 were let out due to a fear among governors of re-offending.
Frances Crook, chief executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform the move by the MoJ was a a panic measure "because prisons are in such dire straits".
"Ministers must give prison governors the political cover if things go wrong with a prisoner, as they will because humans are complex and make mistakes," she added.
Philip Hollobone, Tory MP for Kettering, said: "The public does not like prisoners being released early from their sentence. The public wants criminals to serve the sentence in full in jail. The further we get away from that, the less sentences are a fitting punishment for the crime that has been committed."
The MoJ said: "We are not expanding the scheme to allow the release of any prisoner who was not already eligible and could be released on HDC. We are simplifying the HDC process, reducing the number of forms used in the assessment process and maintaining the strict eligibility and suitability tests.
"This will mean governors can make well-informed, more timely decisions and ensure robust risk management plans are in place for offenders released under the scheme."