Punishment Reports

Justice Committee Remand Report

Yesterday the Justice Committee published its report on remand. This is an important and timely review. We know that in 2017 18.7% of the daily average prison population was made up of people on remand, and the large majority of those people were not found guilty of any offence, but remanded awaiting trial. In fact, 15% of the Scottish prison population are remanded into custody without conviction. The high rates of remand are one of the causes of Scotland's staggeringly high prison population, and therefore remand contributes to Scotland’s reputation as one of Western Europe’s most punitive nations. In England and Wales the use of remand is dropping (where 11% of the prison population is on remand), but in Scotland the remand population has been steadily increasing for decades. [1] Furthermore, the Scottish courts use of alternatives to remand custody, such as supervised bail, have been falling.[2]

Remand is incredibly damaging, it disrupts people's lives (interrupting or even cancelling work contracts, rent or benefits, for example), can undermine their prospects and impact detrimentally upon their family. In addition, the remand prison regime is most often bereft of the education, work and support services and purposeful activities that other prisoners engage in. Moreover, remand prisoners are given less post-prison support than convicted prisoners.

The key issues the report highlighted include:

  •  Scotland’s courts frequently rely on remand to detain people, yet a high proportion of these people do not go on to receive a custodial sentence. Therefore, even if found guilty, they likely have not committed a crime whereby imprisonment for public protection or punishment is deemed necessary, undermining justifications for remand.
  • 70% of women on remand will not go onto receive a sentence; 71% of accused people remanded in solemn proceedings will go onto receive a prison sentence; but only 42% of those people remanded before trial in summary proceedings will receive a custodial sentence.
  • Instead, it appears remand is being employed as a method to ensure people who are accused turn up for their court appearance. For instance, it seems that a person who is homeless, and thus is already more vulnerable and marginalised, is more likely to receive remand.
  • A period of remand can also cause homelessness. People can lose their tenancy while on remand. While people in custody can register as homeless two months before they leave the prison, this is made more difficult for remand prisoners who have little idea when their release date will be.
  • Currently, there is no consistent database that monitors the reasons prisoners are remanded into custody so frequently in Scotland.
  • Remand is economically, personally and socially costly. It is at least as disruptive as a short term sentence, which Scotland has committed to using as a measure of last resort given that short sentences are recognised to be counterproductive as a deterrent and a desistance intervention. 
  • What are the alternatives to remand? The report suggests electronic monitoring, supervised bail and mentoring as possible routes to divert people out of an unnecessary and destructive period of custody. 
  • Some people feel that remand can be a perverse positive, however. Prison is percieved by some as a place for safety and stability where people can access services not available in the community. 

Remand is a major issue in need of penal reform. In many ways, ending remands and reducing our prison population appears simple, but as the report also reveals, remand is justified not as a punitive tactic but as a coercive social support of last resort. However, the prison should never be used as an alternative to welfare interventions in the community. If this is the case, then solutions that can drastically reduce remand must focus on early intervention, social welfare support and diversion. While the prison may be able to provide some limited forms of support, overuse of the prison is always harmful for social relations, causes stigma for individuals and can severely damage family life. It is the most severe punishment the state can deploy against people who have committed a crime. Therefore, it should never be used (1) as a means to address a gap in welfare and community provision; nor should it be used (2) against citizens who have not been found guilty of a crime.

Read the report here: An Inquiry into the Use of Remand in Scotland

[1] http://www.prisonreformtrust.org.uk/Portals/0/Documents/Bromley%20Briefings/Autumn%202017%20factfile.pdf 
[2} http://www.gov.scot/Publications/2017/02/2907/12

Standards for Inspecting and Monitoring Prisons in Scotland

The government have published a newly revised set of ten standards for the inspection of prison in Scotland. There are:

STANDARD 1: LAWFUL AND TRANSPARENT USE OF CUSTODY The prison complies with administrative and procedural requirements of the law and takes appropriate action in response to the findings and recommendations of official bodies that exercise supervisory jurisdiction over it.

STANDARD 2: DECENCY The prison supplies the basic requirements of decent life to the prisoners.

STANDARD 3: PERSONAL SAFETY The prison takes all reasonable steps to ensure the safety of all prisoners.

STANDARD 4: HEALTH AND WELLBEING The prison takes all reasonable steps to ensure the health and wellbeing of all prisoners.

STANDARD 5: EFFECTIVE, COURTEOUS AND HUMANE EXERCISE OF AUTHORITY The prison performs the duties both to protect the public by detaining prisoners in custody and to respect the individual circumstances of each prisoner by maintaining order effectively, with courtesy and humanity.

STANDARD 6: RESPECT, AUTONOMY AND PROTECTION AGAINST MISTREATMENT A climate of mutual respect exists between staff and prisoners. Prisoners are encouraged to take responsibility for themselves and their future. Their rights to statutory protections and complaints processes are respected.

STANDARD 7: PURPOSEFUL ACTIVITY All prisoners are encouraged to use their time in prison constructively. Positive family and community relationships are maintained. Prisoners are consulted in planning the activities offered.

STANDARD 8: TRANSITIONS FROM CUSTODY TO LIFE IN THE COMMUNITY Prisoners are prepared for their successful return to the community.

STANDARD 9: EQUALITY, DIGNITY AND RESPECT The prison employs fair processes whilst ensuring it meets the needs of all prisoners irrespective of age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion and belief, sex and sexual orientation.

STANDARD 10: ORGANISATIONAL EFFECTIVENESS The prison’s priorities are consistent with the achievement of these standards and are clearly communicated to all staff. There is a shared commitment by all people working in the prison to co-operate constructively to deliver these priorities.

Read the full publication here: Standards for Inspecting and Monitoring Prisons in Scotland | 10 March 2015

Death, Addiction and Decay - Health matters in Scottish prisons

Annual Report of the Chief Medical Officer 2013 - Medical Leadership in Scotland

The Scottish Prison Service and NHS face a daily challenge ensuring those detained in prison receive all necessary forms of care. Given the extremely high levels of incarceration in Scotland, this is no small task. That is why the recent Annual Report of the Chief Medical Officer provides illuminating, and also troubling insight into care and need in Scottish custody in 2013.

Nationally, health inequalities remain a ‘major problem in Scotland’, operating in criminal justice spheres ‘offers an opportunity for people in the community who find services hardest to reach, to benefit from support even of the briefest nature’. The report makes clear how problematic it can be to craft the policy and practice of healthcare in criminal justice and not consider those inseparable broader social inequities; stating that it ‘remains the case that key determinants of health are poverty, housing and access to welfare or employment opportunities, along with social aspects of rehabilitation. Without addressing them, risk factor and health improvement intervention will have limited impact and this applies equally to police custody and prisons’.

The disproportionately high medical and healthcare need among the Scottish prison population as compared to the general population was illustrated by a number of key statistics:

  • 54% of 200,000 people who had been in police custody in Scotland had problems with alcohol and drugs.
  • 68% of the same group had difficulties with substance misuse, and problems with both medical and mental health.
  • 73% of prisoners are believed to have an alcohol problem.
  • 36% are believed to be alcohol dependent.
  • At the time of the offence, 45% of prisoner reported being under the influence of alcohol, and;
  • 39% reported that at the time of their offence they were under the influence of drugs.
  •  Upon reception to prison, 77% of prisoners tested as positive for illegal drugs (33% for opiates)
  • It is believed that 19% of the prison population are Hepatitis C positive.
  • About 10% of men in the general population in Scotland suffer from dental decay, compared to 29% of men in Scottish prisons.
  • For women in prison in Scotland, 42% suffer from dental decay, compared to 3% of women in the general population.
  • Both men and women who have been in prison have higher risk of death than the general Scottish populace. The risk of mortality is particularly high in the immediate post release period ‘as prisoners return to the poor circumstances, poverty of opportunity and hope that they left’.

Read the report, particularly the Health & Justice section here

Greenock Inspection

HMP Greenock was recently subject to an Inspection from Chief Inspector of Prisons, Daivid Strang.

  • Greenock has capacity for 249 inmates
  • All cells are single occupancy
  • Greenock has Personal Officers who work more closely with prisoners to support them with their ICM (Integrated Case Management)
  • The Chief Inspector raised concerns about the levels of training and supervision Perosnal Officers currently received

Read the report here: HMP Greenock 19-27 May 2014

SPS Annual Report 2013-2014

The Scottish Prison Service has released its Annual Report which covers all prisons across Scotland.

Some key figures include a stabilising, although still comparatively high, imprisonment rate of a daily average prison population of 7851. HLS remain concerned about the fact that 19% of these people were on remand, and we know that many of these will not go on to receive a custodial sentence.

The report also illustrates what are the SPS's key performance indicators:

Read the full report here: SPS Annual Report 2013-14

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