Select Committee on Home Affairs Third Report


Supplementary note by the Home Office


  1.  A number of witnesses to the inquiry have commented on the use of weekend prison sentences in Germany and elsewhere. The Home Office Research and Statistics Directorate have contacted a small number of countries to find out more about these schemes. Their responses are summarised below. More detailed information could be provided if the Committee requires it.


  2.  The German system allows prisoners late in their sentence to leave the prison to work during the day returning in the evening and for the whole weekend.


  3.  Sweden introduced a system in the mid 1970s of allowing prisoners (about one month before discharge) to have a "work permit". This means that prisoners are allowed to work during weekdays from 8am-5pm returning to the prison in the evenings/weekends. At 1 October 1997, 102 prisoners (out of a sentenced prison population of 4,700) were granted such a permit. Each month about 80-90 new prisoners enter the scheme. Such prisoners must be from low security prisons and deemed to be socially suitable. Its use is limited by the number of prisoners housed near their own home/work.


  4.  The Dutch used to have a system whereby offenders went to prison at the weekend using cells vacated by prisoners on home leave. There are no prisoners currently under this scheme although legislation still permits it.


  5.  After serving about three-quarters of their sentence, prisoners may exercise their own occupation during the day, spending only nights and weekends in prisons. This system of semi-detention was initially only for those serving sentences of up to 6 months but on 1st January 1996 it was extended to include those serving sentences of up to one year. [Iceland set up a similar "half-way" house scheme in 1995].


  6.  A similar system to Switzerland called "day-parole" exists for prisoners who have served one-third of their sentence. In 1997, it was extended to those who had served one-sixth of their sentence if they were first offenders who had committed non-violent crimes and did not seem likely to commit a similar crime in the future.

  7.  All the systems mentioned above, although helping prisoners to cope with release into the community, will have no effect on overcrowding since the inmates still occupy cells.

30 March 1998

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