Overcrowding and poor conditions in Romania’s prisons will see thousands of inmates released early regardless of the crimes they have committed.

Last month, 530 inmates were released including 33 murderers, 47 rapists and two paedophiles after a new law came into force that shaves six days off every inmate’s sentence for every 30 days they spend behind bars in the EU country’s “inhumane and degrading” prisons.

A further 3,500 prisoners have become eligible for parole this month because of reductions in their sentences, with an estimated 8,000 in total expected to benefit from the new law in the first year alone, raising fears of the threat some convicts may pose to the public.

According to local reports, a man who was released a year early from a 10-year rape sentence robbed and sexually assaulted a woman in Bucharest four days after walking free.

Earlier this year the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) criticised Romania’s prison conditions after four inmates lodged complaints about overcrowding, unsanitary facilities, poor food and the presence of rats.

In April the court, which is not an EU body but part of the 56-state Council of Europe, told Romania it needed to provide a plan to improve its prisons.

 “There have been a series of judgments from the European Court of Human Rights concerning inadequate prison conditions in Romania going back several years,” a spokesman for the Council of Europe said.

“The Council of Europe’s Committee of Ministers is working with the Romanian authorities to address these issues.”

Following the initial early releases, Tudorel Toader, Romania’s justice minister, expressed surprise about the number of inmates who benefited from the new measure, saying he didn’t expect “the impact to be so great.”

There are also fears the new measures could be used to release officials jailed for corruption.

The so-called “VIP inmates” are said to live in better conditions to general prisoners who live 18-20 per cell on average.

But the sentence compensation scheme applies to the entire prison if one room is found to breach standards.

“Nobody believes that they implemented these measures for the regular prisoners, most Romanians believe it was done for the politicians,” said Sorin Dumitrascu, president of the federation of prison service trade unions.