22 April 2020
The States of Jersey Prison Service (SoJPS) has announced that as part of the Island’s response to COVID-19 they may allow low-risk prisoners to be released early on licence to reduce the prison population, if required.
The Minister for Home Affairs, Constable Len Norman signed the appropriate order yesterday (21 April), which will allow a small number of low-risk inmates, with seven months or less still to serve at the end of their custodial sentence, to be granted Release on Temporary Licence (ROTL).
The measures would enable the Prison Service to manage any COVID-19 infections in the prison, reduce the risk of any potential spread of COVID-19 within the prison and therefore alleviate pressure on the health service.
Prisoners convicted of violent or sexual offences, will not be considered for release. Only low risk offenders will be considered.
All prisoners on ROTL will be subject to a range of strict licence conditions and must comply with supervision requirements. They will be subjected to frequent checks by the Honorary Police, Probation and Prison Service, and undergo alcohol and drug tests.
The Minister for Home Affairs commented: “As a Government we are committed to ensuring that justice is served to those who break the law. However, this is an unprecedented situation and introducing this temporary scheme will enable the prison population to be managed to reduce any increased pressure of the health service if Covid-19 becomes prevalent in the prison.”
Nick Cameron, Governor and Head of SoJ Prison Service added: “The States of Jersey Prison Service, has taken proactive steps, from an early stage to protect both staff and prisoners from COVID-19. These measures include ceasing all visits to the prison, changing the prison regime, holding court hearings via video link, isolating prisoners or staff who might be vulnerable because of their age or have underlying health conditions. We currently do not have any cases at the prison.
“We will only enact the ROTL measures should we have to, and we expect only to release up to a maximum of 10 prisoners. The ROTL scheme only considers low-risk offenders near the end of their sentence. No prisoner with C19 symptoms, or positive for C19 would be released. Any prisoner on licence has strict conditions and will be supervised, and any breaches can result in a recall to prison. Finally, prisoners may be returned to prison, to complete their sentence in custody, once the risks of COVID-19 have passed.”