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UK News Coronavirus Scotland: Calls to free short-term prisoners from crowded jails

06:35  26 march  2020
06:35  26 march  2020 Source:   msn.com

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However anxiety inside jails over coronavirus continues to grow due to the close proximity of prisoners and fears staff will go off sick with the disease. Police were called to Addiewell Prison in West Lothian, Scotland , on Monday after rioting prisoners carrying metal bars were said to have

a view of a house: Some cons at Barlinnie in Glasgow are being forced to sleep on mattresses on the floor © Daily Record Some cons at Barlinnie in Glasgow are being forced to sleep on mattresses on the floor

Calls to empty Scottish prisons of short-term prisoners amid the coronavirus crisis have accelerated after revelations that some are sharing triple rooms.

Overcrowding has meant many prisoners have to share bunk beds with a cellmate - which was meant to be phased put more than 30 years ago.

But it has emerged that some cons at Barlinnie in Glasgow are being forced to sleep on mattresses on the floor, which are kept under bunk beds during the day.

Prisoners showing symptoms of Covid.19 have been forced to “self isolate” in cells alongside people who do not show symptoms, with the Scottish Prison Service accepting the inevitability of them also falling victim.

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Scotland’s Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf has said he will consider prisoner release and he has been urged not to linger on any decision.

Humza Yousaf wearing a suit and tie smiling and looking at the camera: Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf © PA Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf

The issue has led to rising tensions in jails and a major disturbance at Addiewell, in which two officers were injured, was aggravated by coronavirus fears.

Emma Jardine, policy adviser of the Howard League Scotland, said: “Our prisons have been significantly overcrowded for some time now, with instances of HMP Barlinnie running at a capacity rate of 132 per cent.

“Some prisoners were found to have less than three metres square of living space each, and triple occupancy of some cells means that prisoners are sleeping on mattresses under bunkbeds.

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“These are not environments in which people can safely self-isolate.

“The repeated advice is that we must do everything we can to keep us all safe, and that includes prisoners and prison staff.

“As the Cabinet Secretary advised, if it is in the best interests of keeping a prison safe we are going to need to release some prisoners. We welcome this approach, which may not be universally popular, but is one which will save lives.”

Last year it emerged that more than 1,400 prisoners in Scotland - 12 per cent - had to share a single cell with another inmate.

Of 5,877 single cells occupied within the prison estate, 710 of which were doubled up.

Harvey Slade, of the Transform Drugs Policy Foundation, said: “Prisons pose a particular risk in light of a global pandemic. In the UK, prisons are extremely overcrowded and often unhygienic, and there is concern that Covid-19 may ‘spread like wildfire’ among prisoners and staff alike.

“The virus has already been detected in UK prisons and it has been estimated that an outbreak could lead to 800 avoidable deaths. Without action, prisons will become a death trap.”

The number of confirmed cases in Scottish jails remained at two this week.

Outbreak risks deaths on ‘unprecedented scale’ in prisons, say campaigners .
The Howard League for Penal Reform and the Prison Reform Trust called for Justice Secretary Robert Buckland to take action.The Howard League for Penal Reform and the Prison Reform Trust added to pressure calls for the Justice Secretary Robert Buckland to take action in an open letter.

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