News

Pre-Budget Scrutiny

On 9 October 2019, the Scottish Parliament Justice Committee took Pre-Budget Scrutiny evidence from a number of witnesses, including Colin McConnell (Chief Executive, SPS). His evidence included discussion about contingency plans if all, or part of, a facility such as HMP Barlinnie failed, where the hypothetical situation was described as "unchartered territory". It was noted that this wasn't something that had been come across in work in three of the UK jurisdiction prisons, but that in the event of catastrophic failure, there would be a number of options. One was based on the knowledge that SPS has active contingency plans for up to 500 additional people to be located in other establishments, noting that in the early stages this would compromise of no more than a mattress on the floor and the provision of appropriate toiletries. It was outlined that if the whole prison became unusable, there would be a requirement to talk to the Scottish Government about executive release, because SPS could not find places for 1,400 people in a system which is already overstretched. 
 
The evidence stated that the SPS had a current operating capacity of 7,669 with an operating emergency capacity of 8,492. With current numbers at 8,297 this would leave headspace of 195 places.
 
 
 

Throughcare Service Provision Announcement

Following the news of July 2019 that the Scottish Prison Service planned to temporarily suspend its Throughcare service due to staffing pressures linked to the rising prison population, it was announced on 25 September 2019, that the 'New Routes' and 'Shine' partnerships led by the Wise Group and Sacro respectively, would make support available for more prisoners released from short term sentences of up to four years. 

The Throughcare service previously provided by SPS had been widely praised. We support the reintroduction of this vital service, but lament the need for the redeployment of the 42 Throughcare Support Officers to front-line duties as a result of the increasingly high prison population and rates of absence amongst SPS prison staff.

Reintroduction of Throughcare Support Service

Recorded Crime in Scotland: 2018-2019

On 24 September 2019, the Scottish Government published its Recorded Crime in Scotland figures for 2018-19. These showed a rise of 1% in total crime recorded by the police in Scotland since 2017-18, with non-sexual crimes of violence increasing by 10% and sexual crimes increasing by 8%.  It was noted that these figures should be observed against a backdrop of a 27% decrease in overall crime recorded since 2009-10 and that the recording of crime remained at one of the lowest levels seen since 1974.

Recorded Crime in Scotland Figures (2018-19)

Evidence to Standards, Procedures and Public Appointments Committee: Prisoner Voting

 
On 19 September 2019, one of our Committee Members, Prof. Antony Duff, gave evidence on our behalf to the Standards, Procedures and Public Appointments Committee on the Scottish Elections (Franchise and Representations) Bill.
 
He provided excellent philosophical arguments, alongside practical points about the need to actively promote the right to vote amongst those in prison. He made it clear that whilst we support this move to enfranchise those serving sentences of up to 12 months, that it was an unambitious and mean-minded starting point for what we hoped would later extend to all prisoners. An important point was raised about us "needing to think for ourselves", rather than simply followinging minimum compliance to ECHR.
 
It was a wide-ranging session with members keen to understand the thinking behind the franchise being extended to those serving sentences of 12 months or less, rather than any other sentence-length.
 
 

Audit Scotland audit of SPS

Audit Scotland published its audit of SPS on 12 September 2019. This highlighted that SPS is unable to operate within its budget and is operating well over capacity. It advised that annual staff sickness had increased by 60% in 3 years; there was growing violence between prisoners and against prison officers; and that operational safety was at risk.

Almost all the issues it raised were as a result of the unacceptably high prison population, which we maintain must be decreased in order to provide safe and appropriate conditions for both prisoners and staff.

The 2018/9 Audit of the Scottish Prison Service

 

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