Plan to free up to 2700 prisoners trashed by Opposition

The government plan to free as many as 2700 prisoners from the nation’s jails – as a way of avoiding an infections ‘catastrophe’ – has been resoundingly trashed by Opposition MPs.

Leader of the PSD Rui Rio has said when it comes to a vote his party will be voting against unless stipulations under which prisoners are released are tightened.

Rio wants everyone sent home to be bound by the regulations of house arrest.

“We are totally against pardons for the sake of a virus”, he told journalists this morning. “People in a situation of risk (like this) should leave jail. But not to freedom. They should go into house arrest and continue to serve their time”.

Rio’s criticism has been echoed by right-wing MP André Ventura (the only right-wing MP in the house) who claims the measure is ‘unconstitutional’.

The opposition has been upbraided by the PS which is focused on reducing prison numbers as fast as humanly possible (click here).

The party’s parliamentary leader Ana Catarina Mendes took to Twitter to criticise Rio for what she termed “a dangerous discourse of fear”.

“Prisoners are people and should be treated with humanity”, posted Mendes. “This is an issue of public health. Don’t use it for populism. That’s for others…” she added, possibly alluding to the criticism by André Ventura.

One of the ‘holes’ in Rio’s argument is that his party is seeking to allow anyone over the age of 60 and with health issues to be released to house arrest. This doesn’t gel with PS Socialists who claim some of these people are too dangerous to let out.

Said former interior minister Constança Urbano de Sousa – now deputy parliamentary leader – she is “disappointed” the government cannot count on the PSD vote, but this is an emergency measure that “has to be taken today”.

PS hopes are that with support from left-wing parties and centre-right CDS/PP the vote will pass.

Justice minister Francisca Van Dunem has also rejected the criticism that her party is ‘taking advantage of the virus’ to reduce chronic overcrowding in the prison system.

She has explained however that the ‘perfect solution’ would be to release these prisoners with electronic tags – to ensure they do not reoffend. The problem is that in the context of the pandemic this isn’t logistically possible.

Initially, it was explained that this ‘early release’ plan would involve 1400 prisoners. The number was upgraded today by Ms Van Dunem who revealed that 2700 fall into the bracket outlined recently by a group of judges.

natasha.donn@algarveresident.com