INMATES at Kilmarnock prison could be released early from HMP Kilmarnock under emergency plans drawn up by the Scottish Government.

The Scottish Parliament will be asked to approve the emergency release of some short-term prisoners from jails across Scotland to address the impacts of a rapid rise in the prison population.

The legislation was announced earlier this month by justice secretary Angela Constance as an emergency response to the issue.

If the regulations are agreed, current modelling indicates that around 550 eligible prisoners will be released in four tranches from the end of June.

The Scottish Government has not disclosed how many prisoners may be released from HMP Kilmarnock, nor the scale of any capacity issues at the local jail, stating only that prisoners "will be released for all prisons where eligible prisoners are held".

Prisoners who are serving a life sentence or are on the sex offenders register are not eligible for release.  

Inmates who are subject to non-harassment orders or who have an unspent conviction for domestic abuse will also be excluded from the early release programme.

Prison governors will also have the power to veto the release of any prisoner who is eligible for release, if they deem them an immediate risk to a specific individual or group.

Named victim support organisations will be given information about the release date of a prisoner under the emergency release process, where the victim has requested it.

Ms Constance said: “Emergency early release has become necessary to ensure the safety and wellbeing of Scottish Prison Service staff and those in their care as a result of the rapid rise in the prison population, creating an unprecedented situation.

"This rise of around 400 prisoners over the last two months is significant and could not have been anticipated, and it cannot be ignored, it is also similar to challenges faced across the UK.

“Protecting the public remains my number one priority, which is why there are significant and robust safeguards in place.

"Releases will also be completed in tranches so the necessary support can be provided to safely resettle released prisoners in their communities."

HMP Kilmarnock, which opened in 1999, has 500 cells, and primarily houses those who have been handed jail sentences at the sheriff courts in Ayr and Kilmarnock.

It waspreviously operated by Serco Ltd on behalf of the Scottish Prison Service under a contract with Scottish ministers, but has been directly operated by the SPS since the Serco contract ended in March of this year.