A total of 36 Ayrshire prisoners have been let out early from jails in Scotland under the COVID-19 emergency.

Fourteen inmates have been released back into South Ayrshire, 10 to East Ayrshire and 12 to North Ayrshire.

They have been allowed to leave before their due date to help make prisons safer during the pandemic. The first releases took place on May 6 and they occurred in three phases.

A total of 20 prisoners were let of Kilmarnock Prison.

On June 5 there were no cases of COVID-19 among prisoners in HMP Kilmarnock.

Governors refused the early release of five East Ayrshire and four North Ayrshire prisoners who were eligible under the scheme. Governors have the power veto releases if the person would pose an immediate risk of harm to a certain person.

The Scottish Prison Service (SPS) said in a report: “Early Release has been deemed necessary in order to provide SPS with additional operational capacity including allowing for a greater use of single cell occupancy, keeping prison staff and the people in their care safe.”

Only those serving a sentence of 18 months or less and who were within three months of their release date were considered. Convicts imprisoned for life or who have committed sexual crimes or terrorism offences were excluded.

A total of 348 people have been released from prison in Scotland as part of the scheme out of 445 who were eligible.

Sixty three prisoners had their release prevented by the Governor in charge’s veto.

Thirty four people were released for other reasons.

There are 6,888 prisoners in Scottish jails.