Guide

After the verdict: victims and witnesses

Last updated: 9 October 2017

Prison and parole

Prison sentences

After the judge has announced the sentence, the offender is taken straight to prison. If they spent time in custody (in prison or a police cell) before the trial, the time in prison can be counted as having started from the date they were in custody.

When will the prisoner be released and what happens next?

The actual time that the prisoner spends in prison will normally be less than the length of their sentence. Different things can affect this, like how well the prisoner has behaved in prison.

Prisoners sentenced to less than 4 years in prison:

  • are released automatically at the half-way point of their sentence
  • won't be supervised after their release except in certain circumstances, such as if they're a sex offender

Prisoners sentenced to a determinate sentence of more than 4 years in prison:

  • are eligible for parole at the half-way point of their sentence, and will be released automatically at the two thirds point of their sentence
  • will be released within 6 months of the end of their sentence if they haven't already been given parole
  • will be monitored in the community by social workers for the rest of their sentence
  • won't be entitled to early release if they need extra supervision or still pose a risk to the public

Being released on parole means being released from prison but with certain conditions which have to be followed.

Prisoners sentenced to life in prison:

  • can only be considered for release after they've served the 'punishment part' of their sentence – this is ordered by the judge and stated in court when the offender is being sentenced
  • will always have a 'life licence' if they're released – this is a set of conditions which have to be followed, and if the offender breaks these conditions they can be returned to prison.

Electronic tagging (Home Detention Curfew)

Some offenders (but not sex offenders) can also be released from prison early with an electronic tag. This is known as Home Detention Curfew.

The Scottish Prison Service decides if a prisoner can be released on Home Detention Curfew. They always speak to social workers and carry out a risk assessment first.

One of the conditions for being released on Home Detention Curfew is that offenders must stay at an agreed address for about 12 hours every night. The Scottish Prison Service uses the electronic tag to check that they do this.

Offenders can be recalled to prison if they break these conditions.

Prisoners sentenced to less than 4 years can be released on Home Detention Curfew between 2 weeks and 6 months early (before the half-way point of their sentence).

Prisoners sentenced to 4 years or more can only be considered for Home Detention Curfew if the Parole Board has already decided to release them on parole. The Scottish Prison Service will still carry out a risk assessment and will make the final decision, even if the Parole Board has already decided to give the prisoner parole.

The Parole Board for Scotland

A special committee called the Parole Board decides if prisoners can be released from prison on parole. When deciding if someone should be released on parole, it considers:

  • the original crime
  • how the prisoner has behaved in prison
  • if the prisoner is likely to commit further crimes
  • if they can live normally back in the community

The Parole Board also decides on the conditions the prisoner must follow once they're released. If the prisoner breaks these conditions, they may be sent back to prison to carry out the rest of their sentence.

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After the verdict: victims and witnesses
Prison and parole