THE Scottish Government plans to release more than 500 prisoners early to ease overcrowding, it has been announced.

Regulations have been laid at the Scottish Parliament, which, if agreed, current modelling indicates around 550 eligible prisoners will be released in four waves from the end of June.

Prisoners who are serving a life sentence and those on the Sex Offenders Register will not be eligible and exclusions also apply to prisoners subject to non-harassment orders or who have an unspent conviction for domestic abuse.

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The latest Scottish Government figures on the prison population in Scotland found the average daily prison population in 2022-23 was 7426. If plans to release prisoners early were agreed, it would mean around 7.4% of the prison population could see an early release.

Scotland has 15 prisons in total, with an estimated capacity of 7725, according to the World Prison Brief database. This means that Scotland’s prisons are currently at 97.4% capacity.

The National: Angela Constance was speaking after the statistics had been released (Andrew Milligan/PA)

Scotland’s Justice Secretary Angela Constance (above) said: “Emergency early release has become necessary to ensure the safety and wellbeing of Scottish Prison Service staff and those in their care as a result of the rapid rise in the prison population, creating an unprecedented situation.

“This rise of around 400 prisoners over the last two months is significant and could not have been anticipated, and it cannot be ignored, it is also similar to challenges faced across the UK.

“Protecting the public remains my number one priority, which is why there are significant and robust safeguards in place. Releases will also be completed in tranches so the necessary support can be provided to safely resettle released prisoners in their communities.”