'Women and army veteran prisoners should get early release'
Women and army veteran prisoners should be considered for early release to ease pressure on the prison population, according to a Conservative MP.
Victoria Prentis said that former armed forces inmates and women had "particularly low reoffending rates".
The Justice Select Committee member made the comments in a debate on the prison population, which has nearly doubled since the 1980s to 85,000.
But she admitted the proposal was just "tinkering around the edges".
The Banbury MP member added Imprisonment for Public Protection (IPP) prisoners - who remain in prison for public safety - could also be released.
'Shift sentencing framework'
In the Commons debate on Wednesday, she said: "Women prisoners and veterans have very low reoffending rates. But this is tinkering around the edges of the large prison population at the moment."
In November last year Justice Secretary Liz Truss unveiled a White Paper detailing £1.3bn investment in new prisons over the next five years, and plans for 2,100 extra officers.
But some high-profile prison riots in HMP Birmingham, Bedford and Lewes towards the end of 2016 led the National Council of Independent Monitoring Boards to claim low staffing levels had contributed to the disruption.
Ms Prentis added: "If we can't recruit, as I accept the department is trying desperately hard to do, would the minister commit today to at least considering whether we should have a shift in the sentencing framework, a shift... to community-based alternatives?"
Prisons minister Sam Gyimah, responding to a range of points at the end of the debate, said: "It is incredibly simplistic to say that the problems in our prisons are simply due to staffing. There is the rise of new psychoactive substances and old taboos in prisons have been broken.
"It used to be the case that prisoners never attacked a female prison officer. Now, we see that routinely on our wings. Our prisons have changed and to deal with that complex problem, we need a multifaceted set of answers. That is what this Government are delivering."