UK: Record number of prisoners freed by mistake

Sky News:-A record number of inmates have been released by mistake and violence in prisons in England and Wales has also hit a new high, Ministry of Justice figures show.

In total, 71 convicted criminals or suspects were mistakenly released in 2016/2017 – a rise of seven from the previous year and the highest number since current records started a decade ago.

In the year to March 2017, there were 26,643 assaults, including a record 7,159 attacks on prison staff – equivalent to 20 a day.

The statistics are the latest to lay bare the scale of the safety crisis in the prison system, including violence, drug use and overcrowding.

They will prompt fresh scrutiny on the jail estate and pile pressure on the Government after several violent incidents.

Justice Secretary David Lidington said the figures “reinforce how crucial it is that we make progress as quickly as possible” on improving safety and security in prisons.

Of the inmates released in error, 58 occurred at prison establishments while 13 were during escort or at courts.

Examples of errors can include misplaced warrants for imprisonment or remand, recall notices not being acted on, sentence miscalculations or discharging the wrong person on escort.

Earlier in July, a prisoner who was released from prison just months into a nine-year sentence due to a “clerical error” was arrested after weeks on the run.

Ralston Dodd was jailed after a stabbing attack but was sent home early because his prison term had been recorded incorrectly. The Ministry of Justice said then that it was an “extremely rare” error.

In its latest findings, the ministry said serious assaults on staff had trebled since 2013, reaching 805, while assaults in female prisons reached 1,023, the highest for at least nine years.

It reported 15 escapes from prisons or prisoner escorts and found that the performance of 10 jails was of “serious concern”.

Mr Lidington said that improving safety was his priority.

“I have seen first-hand the challenges our dedicated and hardworking prison staff face,” he said.

“Boosting the frontline is critical to achieving safety and the number of prison officers we are recruiting is rising, with the number of new prison officers joining the service at its highest level since 2010.”

The Government is seeking to add 2,500 frontline officers.

Campaigners and watchdogs have issued several warnings about the state of prisons.

Peter Clarke, the Chief Inspector of Prisons, warned this month that staffing levels in many establishments were too low to maintain order and said many inmates were kept in “squalid, dirty and disgraceful” conditions.