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January 2015 Scottish Prison Population

Pat Carlen on Women in Prison - an indictment of society

Pat Carlen reflecting on her seminal work in Cornton Vale, her words remain as perinent and as urgent now as they did then:

"Insofar as prisons debilitate, women's prisons feed off their own product. But it is an indictment of this society, and not of the prison system, when women tell me that they will go out of prison to a world that has even less to offer than the prison itself. Depressed and alone, some sink into a state where they become
careless of what happens to them. They re-offend and the circle repeats itself again and again."

Read the full article here

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

Inverclyde - a new year's resolution?

BRIEFING NOTE ON SCOTTISH GOVERNMENT’S PROPOSALS TO BUILD A NEW WOMEN’S PRISON

The 2012 Commission on Women Offenders (CWO) recommended that Cornton Vale should be replaced with “a smaller specialist prison for those women offenders serving a statutory defined long-term sentence and those who present a significant risk to the public”.

In response to this recommendation, the Scottish Prison Service (SPS) proposes to replace Cornton Vale with a prison on the outskirts of Greenock to be known as HMP Inverclyde with a capacity to hold 300 women, with the option of increasing this to 350 places. The planned prison would hold convicted and remand adult and young offenders of varying legal and security categories and of varying sentence lengths, from short-term to life sentences.

As Howard League Scotland has made clear before, this represents a clear departure from the recommendation of the CWO report.

Earlier this week, the Cabinet Secretary for Justice Michael Matheson MSP and the Chief Executive of the Scottish Prison Service Colin McConnell gave evidence to the Scottish Parliament’s Justice Committee. Both were clear that they believed the proposed new women’s prison to be in keeping with the spirit and the letter of the CWO report recommendations.

When it comes to prison, size matters. To achieve a more rehabilitative enviroment in prison, smaller is better. More broadly, Howard League Scotland argues that the proposal to build a 350-bed new women’s prison is at odds with the Scottish Government’s commendable aspiration to reduce the prison population and that it undermines all the good work the Scottish Government has done and is doing to implement other recommendations contained within the 2012 report.

There are currently 390 women in prison in Scotland, the majority of whom do not need to be imprisoned for reasons of public protection. If the proposal for HMP Inverclyde goes ahead, the capacity of the female prison estate will be 500. Far from aiming for a reduction in the number of women in prison in Scotland, the Scottish Government is planning for an increase in that number.

There are a number of other options that would better deliver the recommendations in the report of the Commission on Women Offenders, which have not been considered by the Scottish Government. These could include, for example, the construction of a new small specialist prison - as envisaged in the CWO report - within the campus of Cornton Vale and surveying the possibility of converting available public or other accommodation, which might be used as local low security units to be managed by SPS or other agencies. Moving into 2015, there should be a proper examination of these options and the plan to build HMP Inverclyde should not proceed in its present form.

Find out more:

 

Can Prison Work?

The Glasgow Skeptics invited Vice-Convener of HLS, Prof Richard Sparks, to give a talk, Can Prison Work? Professor Sparks, a Professor of Criminology at the University of Edinburgh, gives his talk a Scottish focus - asking what is prison for? Can hope for more? Does it matter what the stated aims of imprisonment are? Does it matter who runs the prisons? Are all prisons basically alike?

Watch the talk here: Can Prison Work?

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