Towards the end of a sentence, prisoners who are deemed to be “low risk” ie mainly those at Cat D prisons, may be allowed out of the prison on either day release licence or overnight license. The purpose of these short term releases from prison is the enable the prisoner maintain or rekindle family ties, find work in the community and generally reintegrate with society. Many Cat D prisons expect prisoners to work in charity/community enterprises as part of their sentence planning.
Being allowed out of prison, even temporally, is a BIG THING! Many reviews of behavior in prison, attitude the offence, risk of re-offending, danger to public etc etc will be debated by the prison staff, probation, police, plus other associated bodies before granting the initial day release. Any failure by the prisoner to comply exactly with the terms of his release license, such as returning late, going to a “banned” area etc will severely restrict any future ROTLs and may even drive a return to closed conditions.
There have been some “high profile” incidents around prisoners of ROTL (read HMIP’s Report here), and this will undoubtably make obtaining ROTLs harder in the future. The prison service has now issued new guidance to all prisons on the who/what/why/when for granting a ROTL. From a prisoners perspective little has actually changed beyond reinforcement that a ROTL is a privilege, not a right and that any breaches of the ROTL licence condition can have dire consequences on the chances of obtaining future ROTLs. Prisoners are split in 2 types, depending upon their reason for conviction and different rules apply to each type. You can read the full PSI by clicking here.