The Lead Catholic Bishop for Prisons for the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales has called on the UK government to go further in protecting prisoners and staff during the second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Bishop Richard Moth contacted the UK Justice Secretary, Robert Buckland QC, earlier this year about the release of vulnerable prisoners who do not pose a threat to the public, including pregnant women and new mothers.
In a follow-up letter, written last week, he stated:
“As we face a second wave, I hope that you will consider measures to counter the growing number of Covid-19 outbreaks among prisoners and staff by extending the Early Conditional Temporary Release Scheme.
“Through releasing some prisoners who pose a low risk of harm and who are nearing the end of their sentences, it may be possible to ease pressure on the prison estate. This can also help to protect vital family support networks, which have come under increasing strain throughout the pandemic.”
The Bishop also highlighted the impact of continued lockdowns inside crowded prisons, warning:
“Through the work of Catholic chaplains and charities across the country, we recognize the great efforts of governors and prison staff in minimizing the loss of life from Covid-19 among the prison population.
“However, we also recognize the very significant cost that has been paid in terms of prisoners’ mental and physical health, restrictions to rehabilitation activity, and reduced family contact. I am sure you will agree that this situation needs further attention.”