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Prison day release to be restricted
Day release from prison is to be scaled back following a series of serious crimes committed by offenders temporarily out of jail, such as murderer Ian McLoughlin.
Tighter rules about who is eligible for the scheme are to be introduced, while prisoners will only be allowed out for a specific purpose, such as gaining work experience, the Ministry of Justice said.
Day-release prisoners will also have to wear electronic tags, once technology is made available, the department added.
The Ministry of Justice cited three serious failures as being behind the move, including the conviction of McLoughlin for murdering Graham Buck in the village of Little Gaddesden, Hertfordshire, in July, while on day release.
McLoughlin, who had killed twice before, was sentenced to a whole-life order.
Another incident, which led to an offender being convicted of attempted robbery, also prompted the change, the department said.
Prisons minister Jeremy Wright said: "We're not prepared to see the failures of last summer repeated and public safety compromised.
"Temporary release can be an important tool in helping offenders reintegrate but it should not be an automatic right and we must do all we can to ensure it does not lead to a permanent blight on innocent members of society.
"The system has been too lax up to now and that must change.
"In future when prisoners are let out on licence I want to be sure they are tagged and strictly risk-assessed so we know where they have been and can be sure that they have been tested in the community under strict conditions before being released."
The department said from now on, prisoners eligible for release on temporary licence will have to earn it by demonstrating the "right behaviour and a commitment to change".
It will no longer be considered an automatic right which is given when inmates are deemed suitable for open conditions.
There will also be a more thorough assessment of risks before temporary release is authorised.
For prisoners with a history of serious crimes, there will be a new 'restricted' level where they will undergo stringent risk assessments by probation and other professionals.
Juliet Lyon, director of the Prison Reform Trust, said: "For a Government committed to rehabilitation, justice ministers should feel ashamed that only a quarter of men, and fewer than one in 10 women, leave prison with a job to go to, and proud that their well-established release on temporary licence programme has worked over years to help thousands of prisoners go straight on release.
"Now, in the face of a thankfully few terrible cases, and for the sake of a tough headline, they risk destroying a programme that has proved its worth instead of investigating its few failures and learning from its many successes."