The Scottish Conservatives have called for mandatory testing of all prisoners prior to release after it emerged the Scottish Government does not routinely test prisoners released into society.
In a written answer to Liam Kerr, Scottish Conservative shadow justice secretary, the Minister for Public Health, Joe Fitzpatrick admitted that prisoners are “not routinely tested for Covid-19 prior to liberation”.
Official figures show that on average there are over ten thousand unused coronavirus tests every day, more than enough to test each liberated prisoner.
Scottish prisons previously have had hundreds of staff self-isolating, and in the prison population itself, at least 6 prisoners have died from the virus.
A total of 272 prisoners have been released early so far, in a bid to contain coronavirus, with a total of 445 prisoners eligible.
While the Scottish Prison Service has taken significant steps to contain the virus, those infected are contagious prior to symptoms and hundreds of members of staff pass through prisons on a daily basis.
Liam Kerr, Scottish Conservative shadow justice secretary said:
“Prisons have had outbreaks of Covid and prisoners have died from this virus.
“Despite this, the Scottish Government is just sitting on its hands watching hundreds of prisoners go back into society without making sure they are virus-free.
“There is no lack of testing availability – quite the opposite - there are over ten thousand unused tests each day.
“Each prisoner must be tested for Covid-19 prior to liberation to make sure they don’t pose a threat to public health.
“Given everything we now know, surely the least the Scottish Government could do is test these criminals to make sure the public is safe.”
The full question is below -
Liam Kerr (North East Scotland) (Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party): To ask the Scottish Government whether all prisoners are tested for COVID-19 prior to release and, if so, at what point.
Joe FitzPatrick: Prisoners are not routinely tested for COVID-19 prior to liberation.
In line with existing guidance, prison healthcare staff should inform their local health protection team if they suspect that they have cases of COVID-19 in the prison and health protection teams can arrange testing if required.