Prisons

Scottish Prisons in Comparative Perspective

The Council of Europe today published their Annual Penal Statistics – Survey 2016. The report reflects detailed information from 47 of the 52 prison administrations across the Council of Europe. This has revealed a slight increase in the total size of the prison population across these jurisdictions, rising by 1%, the Council of Europe average prisoner population is 117 prisoners per 100,000 people. This report is also important because it allows us to see where Scotland sits in relation to penal trends in other countries.

Matters we should be worried about include the revelation that Scottish prisons have the highest mortality rates within the UK. They are slightly higher than England and Wales and more than double the rate of deaths recorded in Northern Irish prisons.

For every 100,000 inhabitants in Scotland there are 584.3 entries to a prison. This is extraordinarily high. The rate of entry in England and Wales is only 197.3 per 100,000 of the population. This puts us far beyond the European entry rate average of 167.3 people, giving Scotland the third highest entry rate of the 47 nations surveyed in the Council of Europe report. The entry rate does not reflect the number of individuals received into prison, but the total number of times someone enters a prison. So this can include the same individual receiving more than prison sentence in a year. This suggests that more people are being churned through the prison system more often than almost any other country.

Scotland releases people at a slower rate than the European average. In 2015, 31,300 people entered Scottish prisons and 16,700 people were released. This means Scotland has a turnover ratio of 42.6. This is below the European average of 52.3 and places us in the group of countries with the lowest turnover ratios. The Council of Europe warns that low turnover rates are potentially an indicator of future overcrowding.

Within the UK Scotland was recorded as having the highest percentage of females in the prison population (Scotland: 5.2%; England and Wales: 4.5%; Northern Ireland: 3.6%)

There was an average of 1494 people imprisoned as pre-trial detainees

Other important figures include:

The rate of releases per 100,000 people in national population was 311.8, which was far above the average of 135.1

Scotland is recorded as having one of the shortest average sentences at 2.9 months, this is below the European average of 9.8. Short sentences can help keep prisoner numbers low, but it can also be an indicator that prison is not being used a measure of last resort. However, since the presumption against short sentences was introduced in Scotland this figure is likley to have risen.

Scotland has a lower than average prisoner suicide rate, with 8.3% of deaths in Scottish prisons recorded as suicide.

Since the figures were collated Scotland’s prison population has dropped from 142 per 100,000 to 139. While this is welcome, the change is likely due to drop in the number of people being proceeded against by the courts rather than reflecting a change in prison policy. To make this change permanent and continuous requires policies that address Scottish punitive sentencing trends, cautious parole practices and long-term prisoner legislation.

Read more: SPACE I: Annual Penal Statistics in Europe for 2016

Scottish prisons design capacity and average daily populations (2015/16)

Latest Crime and Punishment Statistics Scotland

Scottish Government Justice Analytical Services have released their latest Statisical bulletin. Some of the key figures include a decrease in the fear of crime, a believe that crime is either static or going down; an increase in the prison population and the average sentence length; and an overal decrease in recorded crime.

Police and Crime

Recorded crime is down by 36% since 2006-07

16.9%: The overall risk of being a victim of crime, which fell from 20.4% in 2008-09, and the estimated number of crimes experienced by adults in Scotland fell by 22% over the same period.

52%: The clear up rate for all recorded crimes in 2013-14, up from 51% in 2012-13 and the highest since 1976

Fear of Crime

76%: the number of adults who thought that the crime rate stayed the same or improved in their local area in 2012-13

Fines

55%: Number of people convicted in 2013-14 who received a financial penalty.

Prisons

4%: The rise in the average prison population between 2010-11 and 2011-12, to 8,178. This was driven by increases of 9% in the remand and 3% in the sentenced population.

9,500: Current projections for the Scottish prison population for 2020-21.

9.5: the average length of sentence in months

Social Work

82%: the percentage of the 19,400 social work order between 2012-13 which were community payback orders.

 

Read the full report here: Monthly Safer Communities and Justice Brief | Justice Analytical Services (JAS) | Scottish Government | March 2015

Perspectives from inside Barlinnie

The Centre for Crime and Justice Studies recently organised three workshops in HMP Barlinnie on Abuse, mental health and self-harm, Activities, work and education and Resolving disputes in prison, security, and the use of force. Corresponding workshops were also undertaken in HMP Grendon, which this publication also reports.

The Barlinnie section makes for sobering reading, however. It is prison life from the perspective of those men imprisoned. It presents an atmosphere suffused with fear, high levels of anxiety and mistrust. The regime is described as being beleaguered with long waits for medical treatment, long lock-up times, cold food, inflexible visiting times, doubled-up cells. 

HLS maintains that these problems will not be resolved by simply building a new prison. While modern facilities are welcomed, the issues of prison atmosphere and quality of day-to-day prison life rest in the regime, access to services, staff-prisoner relations, purposeful activity and family visits – all of which are undermined by the acute levels of overcrowding at Barlinnie. The other prison in this report, HMP Grendon, which was built in the middle of the last century is described as exceptional by prisoners there due to its services and regime – despite the buildings age. While bricks and mortar reform is one thing, SPS and the government must address the pressing need for qualitative regime reform and tackle the overcrowding in Barlinnie.

Read the report here: Perspectives from inside: A report from HMP Grendon and HMP Barlinnie | Centre for Crime and Justcie Studies | March 2015

Experiencing Long-term Imprisonment in Scotland

Based on extensive interviews with long-term prisoners in Scotland, this fantastic 2 page essay from Dr Marguerite Schinkel in SJM illuminates how long-term prisoners experience their sentence, anger about the en masse rehabilitation process and trying to desist when back in the community while faced with the life long burden of having to disclose a criminal record.

Read the full article here: Fair Enough | Scottish Justice Matters | Vol 3 | Number 1 | March 2015
 

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