Closed petition Release HMP Prisoners due to COVID-19 - temporary release, licence, tag, curfew

On behalf of all UK Prisoner’s families, we urge the release of prisoners during COVID-19.

We understand restrictions must be imposed so maybe ‘vulnerable’ prisoners (elderly, health conditions), low risk prisoners & less time on their sentence.


More details

We request the Government to take action immediately amidst COVID-19.

There have been multiple cases of Coronavirus in UK Prisons already.
1) This is likely to spread rapidly as prisons are small enclosed spaces
2) Increasingly staff are reporting being ill, the numbers of staff per prison is decreasing & prisoners are not given the appropriate care/food/management
3) There is a risk to ALL staff and prisoners working within HMP with the virus amongst us

This petition is closed All petitions run for 6 months

49,569 signatures

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Government responded

This response was given on 8 April 2020

The Government has announced up to 4000 low risk and vulnerable offenders will be temporarily released. They will be subject to strict licence conditions, risk assessment, and electronic monitoring.

Read the response in full

The Government’s priority is to do whatever is necessary to protect the NHS and save lives. The Ministry of Justice is equally determined to protect those who live and work in prisons from harm and ensure the stability of our jails.

Public Health England has advised that without action, coronavirus could spread rapidly in prisons due to the close proximity in which prisoners live, overwhelming local NHS services and putting the lives of prisoners, staff and people outside the prison system at risk. It is for these reasons, and in response to the current unprecedented emergency, that on Saturday 4 April, the Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice announced that carefully risk-assessed prisoners, who are already within two months of their release date will be temporarily released from prison.

Prisoners who pass the criteria for release will be subject to strict conditions, and will be electronically monitored, including with GPS tags, to enforce the requirement to stay at home. They can be immediately recalled to prison for breaching these conditions or committing further offences. The releases will be phased over time but can start from the week commencing 6 April.

The Government has also previously announced that pregnant women in custody who do not pose a high risk of harm to the public will be temporarily released from prison to protect them and their unborn children from coronavirus. Prisoners in Mother and Baby Units meeting the same risk assessment will also be released with their children.

Public protection is paramount, and therefore no high-risk offenders, including those convicted of violent or sexual offences, anyone of national security concern or a danger to children, will be considered for release, nor any prisoners who have not served at least half of their custodial term. Additionally, no offenders convicted of COVID-19 related offences, including coughing at emergency workers or stealing personal protective equipment, will be eligible. No prisoner would be released if they have symptoms of coronavirus or without housing and health support being in place.

We do not take this decision, or our duty of care to prisoners and staff, lightly. Alongside this we are also working to identify publicly owned sites that could be used to house temporary prison accommodation to ease pressure on the permanent estate, and allow us to further separate prisoners and reduce the spread of the virus. We are also working with the judiciary to expedite sentencing hearings for those on remand to reduce the numbers being held in custody.

There will be some vulnerable prisoners who will not be suitable for release owing to the risk they pose to the public, and to protect them we have provided guidance to prisons on measures to take to shield vulnerable people. This includes the creation of shielding units, which are a specific part of a prison designated to house those required to socially shield themselves.

Ministry of Justice.

MPs ask about releasing prisoners due to coronavirus

A cross party group of MPs called the Justice Committee recently asked the Secretary of State for Justice about this issue. You can find out more here and read the response:

What is the Justice Committee?

The Justice Committee looks at and questions how the Department for Justice:

  • is run
  • spends money
  • decides on its policies

It's a cross-party committee of MPs and is independent of the Government.
You can find out more about the Justice Committee on its website:

You can follow the Justice Committee on Twitter:


This is a ‘select committee’. Find out how Select Committees work:

Further Information

You may also be interested to know that because of the large number of petitions that have been started in relation to coronavirus, the Petitions Committee has been questioning the Government about its response to the coronavirus outbreak.

Find out more and watch the Committee put questions suggested by petitioners to Government Ministers and the Deputy Chief Medical Officer:

Read letters asking further questions of Government Ministers:

You can read impartial analysis of the Government response to coronavirus and policy developments here: