Criminal justice authorities in Fife are preparing to release around 100 prisoners early due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Significant pressure has been placed on jails across Scotland due to staff absences.
Humza Yousaf revealed last month that a “limited” number of prisoners would be set free.
Documents seen by The Courier have revealed that more than 100 are expected to be released back into the kingdom’s communities in the coming weeks.
Most deemed eligible for release are anticipated to be prisoners on short sentences with less than three months to serve, although anyone convicted of sexual offences, domestic abuse or terrorism or who would be subject to a supervision order will not be considered for release.
Ministers were given the power to release some prisoners early in emergency legislation passed at Holyrood earlier in April.
Almost 90 prisoners across Scotland were said to be in isolation due to the virus in an update last week, and all were being “monitored accordingly”.
Mr Yousaf said: “I believe this is a necessary and proportionate response to the current situation in our prisons.
“This is in the interests of maintaining security and good order in our prisons and vitally also in safeguarding the health, safety and welfare of prisoners and those working in our prisons. This action will help give the SPS sufficient capacity, including increased single-cell occupancy, to continue to maintain a safe custodial environment.”
The Scottish Government has said around 450 prisoners fall into the category considered for release, but official documents seen by The Courier revealed that authorities in Fife have been told to prepare for the release of almost a quarter of that figure – “around 100” – at the end of this month.
Conservative MSP Liam Kerr said victims of crime would be “very concerned” by the move, but it was welcomed by Labour’s James Kelly as a “correct and appropriate” response.