More foreign offenders to be sent home amid plans to ease prison pressures
The Government will pledge to send more foreign prisoners home, with ministers under pressure to act amid serious pressure on prison capacity.
Justice Secretary Alex Chalk has already signalled plans to send fewer “low-level offenders” to prison, as he prepares to set out a range of reforms covering England and Wales later on Monday.
The announcement will also see plans to bring forward legislation that would allow prisoners to be held overseas, a move that the Government said follows steps taken by Belgium and Norway.
It comes amid serious concerns about overcrowding in British prisons, with 88,225 people currently incarcerated in England and Wales.
The Ministry of Justice said that over 3,1000 foreign criminals have already been removed in the year to March, but 10,500 remain locked up in England and Wales.
Under new plans, foreign offenders will be removed sooner into their sentences with more caseworkers deployed to speed up removals.
Currently, foreign criminals can be removed up to a year before the end of their sentence.
Ministers want to now bring that forward six months, in a move is hoped will save £70,000 per prisoner.
Officials are also looking at what more can be done to remove foreign offenders convicted of less serious offences more quickly, with plans as well to introduce new conditions to ban those convicted from returning to the UK.
“It’s right that foreign criminals are punished but it cannot be right that some are sat in prison costing taxpayers £47,000 a year when they could be deported,” Mr Chalk said.
“Instead of letting foreign nationals take up space in our prisons at vast expense to the law-abiding public we will take action to get them out of the country and stop them from ever returning.”
Ahead of MPs hearing the plans, the Justice Secretary used an article in the Sunday Telegraph to say that sending less serious offenders into prison was the “wrong use” of the system.
He suggested prisoners could instead clean up neighbourhoods, scrub graffiti off walls or plant forests.
The Lord Chancellor also confirmed plans that would see rapists forced to serve their full sentence in prison.
Mr Chalk pitched his planned sentencing reforms for less serious offenders as Texan-style justice, but Labour mocked that suggestion.
Shadow justice secretary Shabana Mahmood said: “The only thing Texan about this government is that they are running the country like cowboys.
“Thirteen years of reckless mismanagement of the criminal justice system has led to a crisis of epic proportions where they are now coming up with policy on the hoof, which does nothing to deal with the immediate overcrowding crisis.”
Published: by Radio NewsHub