Prisoner release on Temporary Licence

A prisoner may be released from prison before the end of their prison sentence on a temporary licence (ROTL). This is an important part of helping the prisoner reintegrate into society and family life.

Risk assessment following ROTL application

Once an application for release on temporary license has been received, the prison will first decide whether the prisoner is eligible for such release and will then carry out a risk assessment. Each prison has a leaflet available to prisoners setting out its policy on ROTL.

Applicants for ROTL must not presume their application will be allowed as it will be subject to a rigorous risk assessment. Factors that will be taken into account include information in relation to any previous release on temporary licence, criminal history, and child safeguarding issues.

There are specific categories of prisoners that are not eligible for ROTL from any UK prison, including:

  • Category A prisoners
  • A prisoner who is named on an escape list
  • Any prisoner subject to extradition proceedings
  • A prisoner who has not yet been sentenced
  • A prisoner held in prison on remand, having already received a sentence in relation to one or more offences, but still awaiting sentence in relation to further offences

In addition, Category B offenders are not eligible for certain aspects of ROTL. They will not be considered for Resettlement Day Release or Resettlement Overnight release, but may be considered for others forms of ROTL.

Types of ROTL

There are four different types of ROTL:

  • Resettlement day release
  • Resettlement overnight release
  • Childcare resettlement
  • Special purpose release

Resettlement Day Release

A prisoner will be eligible to apply for Resettlement Day Release in the following circumstances:

  • 24 months before their parole date
  • 24 months before their conditional release date
  • They have served half of their sentence less half of any relevant remand time

Whichever is the later date will be that which the prison will consider on application for Resettlement Day release.

Why Resettlement Day Release?

There are many reasons why a person may apply for Resettlement Day Release. The most common reasons include:

  • To maintain family ties
  • Todeal with housing issues
  • To attend probation interviews
  • To search for employment and attend any relevant interviews
  • To carry out any unpaid work requirements
  • To attend any training or skills workshops
  • To open bank accounts
  • Complete any sentence related requirements such as drug and alcohol rehabilitation

Prisoners serving their sentence in designated resettlement prisonsmay be consider alongside an application for Resettlement Day Release:

  • To undertake driving lessons
  • Car maintenance
  • To carry our paid employment

The length of time and frequency of release

The Prison Governor will decide how long each Resettlement day release will last; and for how many weeks or months this will continue.

It is usual for Category C prisoners or closed condition prisoners, who are receiving regular, lengthy Resettlement Day Release, to be transferred to open prisons providing their release is going well.

Prisoners eligible for Home Detention Curfew (also known as Tag)will receive at least one Resettlement Day release prior to their release on tag.

Resettlement Overnight Release

The terms for releasing a prisoner on Resettlement Overnight release are the same as those for Resettlement Day release.

Category C and closed condition prisoners

Any Category C prisoner or closed condition prisoner can apply for a single period of Resettlement Overnight release in the 3 months prior to their parole eligibility date. If their application is successful and the release has gone well, the prisoner will also be considered for transfer to open conditions.

If the prisoner is not granted parole, the prison will carry out a further risk assessment. Following an unsuccessful application for parole, a prisoner can apply for 6 periods of Resettlement Overnight Release in the 12 months following his parole eligibility date (increasing to 10 periods the following year).

Prisoners suitable for open or semi-open conditions

These prisoners can apply for a single period of Resettlement Overnight Release in the 3 months immediately prior to their parole eligibility date.If parole is refused, the same applies as for Category C and closed condition prisoners (see above).

Prisoners without a parole eligibility date serving a sentence of over 12 months

These prisoners may apply for Resettlement Overnight Release once every 4 weeks after their date for Resettlement Overnight release has been granted.

Childcare Resettlement Leave

To be eligible, a prisoner must be the sole carer responsible for a child under the age of 16 and is:

  • Subject to open conditions, or
  • Considered eligible for such conditions, or
  • Resident in a mother and baby unit and have other children outside of prison being cared for by others

If the Childcare Resettlement release is to take place in the residence of the person currently caring for the child/ren, that carer’s permission must be obtained first. If the children are in the care of the Local Authority, then their authority must be obtained.

Childcare Resettlement Leave lasts for a maximum of three nights in every two months.

Special Purpose License

All prisoners, except for those listed above who are excluded from any ROTL, are eligible for Special Purpose Release.This is most commonly granted where there are special circumstances, for example:

  • Compassionate leave such as visiting a relative who is dying, attending funerals or emergency problems with children
  • To received medical treatment
  • Marriage
  • To help the police with further enquiries

Any matters concerning religious requirements should be considered as a matter of urgency, for example, where a funeral will take place within 24 hours of death.

The maximum length of release will be four nights, and the length allowed will be subject to the Governor’s discretion.

Back-to-back licenses may be granted in exceptional cases.

Article written by...
Lucy Trevelyan LLB
Lucy Trevelyan LLB

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Lucy graduated in law from the University of Greenwich, and is also an NCTJ trained journalist. A legal writer and editor with over 20 years' experience writing about the law.