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People in prison: a snapshot

Almost two-thirds of those taking part in the 2013 prisoner survey reported having children (63%). Of these, two in five (42%) had one child and just under a third had two children (31%). A quarter (24%) of prisoners thought that they would not be caring for their children when they were released, while 17% of prisoners did not know.

Nearly half of prisoners surveyed reported being drunk at the time of their offence (45%). One in five reported that drinking affected their ability to hold down a job (21%) and over one-third of prisoners admitted that their drinking affected their relationship with their family (35%)

A higher proportion of women reported problems with alcohol, with half (50%) reporting being drunk at the time of their offence—an 8% increase on 2011. Over half (53%) said that they would drink 10 or more drinks on a typical day when drinking, with 29% saying they drank six or more drinks on a daily, or almost daily, basis.

Two-thirds (68%) of young offenders reported being drunk at the time of their offence. 39% of prisoners reported being under the influence of drugs at the time of their offence, with 16% reporting that they committed their offence to get money for drugs.

Two-thirds (62%) reported using drugs in the 12 months prior to coming into prison. Cannabis (78%), benzodiazepams (58%) and cocaine (51%) were the most commonly used drugs.

Eight in ten (79%) young people in prison reported that they had used drugs in the 12 months prior to coming into prison and half (49%) were under the influence of drugs at the time of the offence.

A quarter of prisoners reported that they had taken another prisoner’s prescribed medication at some point during their time in prison.

One-quarter reported having a disability (25%), an increase of six per cent from 2011 (19%), with 68% of these stating that staff in their prison know they have a disability. Just over one third (36%) of older prisoners stated that they had a disability.

A quarter (25%) of young people in prison surveyed had no qualifications. Over half (56%) said that they were ‘often’ excluded from school and four in ten (37%) said that they had ‘often’ attended a Children’s Panel.

Just over a third of respondents to a Prison Reform Trust survey of prisons in Scotland in 2007 said that their prison had a dedicated learning disability nurse.

There were 1,822 recorded ‘minor & no injury’ prisoner on prisoner assaults in Scottish prisons in 2013–14, a 5% rise on the previous year. The number of serious assaults remained stable at 71.

85% of prisoners reported positively on the ability to arrange visits and 84% on access to family and friends. However, 57% reported that their visitors experienced problems when visiting them in prison, most frequently the distance of the prison from their home (61%) and the cost involved in getting to the prison (57%).

A greater number of older prisoners (18%) had no regular contact with their family and friends than younger prisoners (9%).

One-quarter of prisoners indicated that during their up-bringing they had been in care (27%).

Over half of women reporting had witnessed violence between their parents/carers when they were children (56%) compared to four in ten male prisoners (41%).

59% prisoners surveyed reported they were a lodger before going to prison, and 34% were a council tenant. Half of prisoners who specified said that they lost their tenancy/accommodation when they went to prison (49%).

The women’s prison population in Scotland increased 66% in the ten years since 2002-03.There has been a slight decrease with an average daily prison population of 431 women in 2013–14, 26 fewer than the year before.

The proportion of prisoners on remand is higher for women than men (23% compared to 19%). Only around 30% of women on remand go on to receive a custodial sentence.

In 2011–12, 1,979 women were received into custody on remand, 5% higher than the previous year. The number of women remanded to custody almost doubled between 1999–2000 and 2008–09 (from 1,176 to 2,338).

There is evidence that women are being imprisoned for longer periods of time. Research by the Scottish Centre for Crime and Justice Research (SCCJR) found that the average length of custodial sentences imposed on women increased from 228 days in 1999–2000 to 271 in 2008–09. This difference is largely explained by the significant increase in the number of women sentenced to between six months and two years.

The report found no evidence of increasing participation in crime by women. Data from five police forces showed that the number of recorded crimes involving females has remained relatively stable between 1999–2000 and 2009–10, with some fluctuations in the Strathclyde and Fife area.

SCCJR analyses suggest that the growth in the women’s prison population can more likely be attributed to the increasing use of custodial sentences by courts than changes in the pattern of female offending.

A higher proportion of women commit ‘crimes of dishonesty’ than men. In 2012–13, 11% of proven offences by women were for shoplifting, compared with 6% of men.

According to Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill, two-thirds of the women at Cornton Vale, Scotland’s only all-women prison, were serving sentences of six months or less. Commenting on this, MacAskill said they had “typically been jailed for low level offences ... four out of five women going to Cornton Vale have a mental health problem and seven out of 10 have a disclosed history of abuse or trauma ... so while the staff at Cornton Vale are doing a fantastic job, a short-term prison environment is not always conducive to identifying root problems and dealing with them effectively.”

A report by the Commission on Women Offenders, chaired by former Lord Advocate, Dame Elish Angiolini, stated that “Cornton Vale is not fit for purpose.” It recommended that it is 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 March 2014, a 50-place regional unit opened at HMP Grampian for women from the north east of Scotland.A Regional Unit in Edinburgh is planned for women from the east and south-east. A 350 place women’s prison is planned near Greenock to replace HMP Cornton Vale at an estimated cost of £60m.

Specialist services designed to meet the complex needs of women offenders can help them to tackle the causes of their offending. Women who used the services at the 218 Service in Glasgow identified significant decreases in drug and/or alcohol use (83%), improvements in their health and wellbeing (67%), access to stable accommodation and referrals to longer-term support services.

Via The Bromley Briefings

 

Possible Smoking Ban in Scottish Prisons

It has recently been reported in the media that SPS are exploring the possibility of imposing a prison-wide smoking ban. Howard League Scotland recognises the challenge faced by prison authorities in striking a balance between fostering a safe living and working environment for prisoners and staff alike and allowing some prisoners to pursue what is a legally accepted habit outside the prison walls. Effective enforcement of a ban is also often a challenge for prison authorities. Experiences in other jurisdictions have highlighted that even complete bans on smoking have not always led to complete abstinence in prisons.

Smoking in Scottish prisons:

  • The more times a person appears in custody the more likely they are to be a smokers
  • 87% of women smoke
  • 59% of older prisoners a reportedly smokers
  • Compared to 76% of younger prisoners

Find out more: Ash Factsheet - Smokefree Prisons

Scottish Government’s Draft Budget 2015-16

HLS have raised concerns that the government’s draft budget 2015-16 will increase funding for imprisonment and decrease community justice service budgets. The stark contrast in investment is clear as the central budget for community justice services is less than 10% of the budget for the Scottish Prison Service. Even taking into account the ring-fenced grant for Criminal Justice Social Work of £86.5m, which we note is also unchanged in cash terms, the total budget for community justice is still only one third that assigned to prisons.

We welcome the fact that the Scottish Government remains committed to the goal of reducing Scotland’s prison population. However, if the Scottish Government is serious about reserving prison for the most serious and dangerous offenders and making greater use of community-based disposals, it is hard to see how this will happen without a greater shift in resources from custody to community justice.

Justice Committee
Scottish Government’s Draft Budget 2015-16

 

Scottish Imprisonment - Recent trends and Costs

Trends

  • On 10 October 2014 the total population of prisoners in custody in Scotland stood at 7,755.
  • Over one-third of the adult male population, and nearly one-tenth of the adult female population is likely to have at least one criminal conviction.
  • The imprisonment rate for Scotland stands at 147 per 100,000. England and Wales have an imprisonment rate of 149 per 100,000, France 102 per 100,000 and Germany 81 per 100,000.
  • In 2012–13, 14,758 people were given a custodial sentence, accounting for 15% of people found guilty of an offence, the highest proportion in the last 10 years.
  • The average length of a custodial sentence in 2012-13 was over nine months (283 days), this is 51 days longer than in 2006-07.
  • On 6 August 2010 a statutory presumption against short periods of imprisonment was decreed in the Scottish Parliament. The Criminal Justice and Licensing (Scotland) Act 2010 states “a court must not pass a sentence of imprisonment for a term of three months or less on a person unless the court considers that no other method of dealing with the person is appropriate.”
  • The proportion of people receiving a sentence of up to 3 months has fallen from 53% of custodial sentences in 2006–07 to 29% in 2012–13.
  • The official capacity for all 15 Scottish prisons is 8,155.During 2013–14 an average of 7,835 prisoners were held in custody a slight fall on the previous year (2012–13, 8,014).
  • The average daily population of sentenced prisoners in 2013–14 fell slightly to 6,375.However, the remand population saw a slight increase over the same period, rising to 1,476.
  • There are currently 14 publicly managed prisons and two privately managed prisons, both run by Serco (HMP Kilmarnock and HMP Addiewell).Combined, the two private prisons held some 1,200 prisoners in 2013–14, 15% of Scotland’s prison population.
  • Recent changes to the prison estate include the closure of HMP Peterhead and HMP Aberdeen in December 2013 and January 2014 respectively, and the opening of HMP Grampian in March 2014, costing £77.7m to construct.
  • The average daily population on Home Detention Curfew (HDC) during 2013–14 was 364. In 2012–13 it was 363.
  • The average daily population of prisoners recalled from supervision or licence has increased by 36% to 701 in 2011–12, from 514 in 2006–07.108The most common reason for being recalled is for failure to comply with the technical conditions of the curfew rather than committing crimes while on HDC. Being out of curfew for more than six hours (38% of all recalls) and breach of licence conditions (24%) accounted for most recall activity. Offending while on licence appears only rarely to be the cause of recall (7% recalled for a new warrant served).
  • In 2012–13, just 10 custodial sentences were imposed on children under the age of 16.

Costs

  • The average annual cost per prisoner place for 2013–14 was £33,153, excluding capital charges, exceptional compensation claims and the cost of the escort contract. This is an increase of £1,227 on the previous year.
  • A 2011 report found that it costs £126 per week to keep someone on HDC, compared to a notional cost of £610 per week to keep them in prison.
  • Hugh Monro, former Chief Inspector of Prisons for Scotland, has stated that “Securing children, young offenders or prisoners is not a cheap option ... the cost of keeping a child in a Secure Unit can be as high as £250k per annum.”
  • Of the £419 million that Audit Scotland estimated was spent by authorities to deal with people sentenced in court in 2010–11, £254 million (61%) was spent restricting the liberty of offenders. 14% (£60.8 million) was spent on rehabilitation and 16% (£66.7 million) was spent on reintegration services to support prisoners moving back into the community.
  • The Scottish Government estimates that the total economic and social costs of reoffending are around £3 billion a year. Further research estimated the total cost of reoffending by a single cohort of offenders who had three or more previous convictions over a ten-year period was £5.4 billion. This is considered an under-estimate as it does not include all the costs incurred by bodies outside the criminal justice system.

Via The Bromley Briefings

HLS Convenor, John Scott QC, Annual SACRO Lecture

Howard League Scotland Convener, John Scott QC, delivered the SACRO annual lecture, offering a human rights analysis of restorative justice as a means of having both victims and offenders at the heart of the criminal justice system.

Listen to the talk here: youtube 
Follow John on twitter

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