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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

 

Scottish Government - Programme for Government 2019/20

The Scottish Government's Programme for Government 2019/20 was published on 3 September 2019. It stated that the new Women's National Facility (WNF) and first two Community Custody Units (CCUs) will not now be complete and operational by the end of 2020 as previously advised, but that the CCUs will open by the end of 2021 and construction of the new WNF is scheduled to begin early in 2020.

Whilst we welcome the introduction of the new CCUs, we remain concerned that the number of women currently imprisoned far exceeds the capacity provided by the new parts of the estate.

Protecting Scotland's Future - Scottish Government's Programme 2019-20

HMIPS Annual Report 2018-19

HM Inspectorate of Prisons for Scotland (HMIPS) published its Annual Report on 22 August 2019. Having completed full inspections of HMP Perth, HMP Addiewell, HMP YOI Polmont and HMP YOI Grampian, it reiterated previous findings that parts of the prison estate remained unfit for purpose. Many of its observations related to current overcrowding issues placing unsustainable burdens on both prisoners and prison staff. Examples included difficulties in transferring prisoners to other prisons to complete offender behaviour programmes, where prisoners were at risk of being released into the community without having completed treatment programmes designed to reduce future reoffending. Elements of health and well-being were of particular concern across a number of inspected prisons.

HMIPS Annual Report 2018-19

 

Fatal Accident Inquiry - Allan Marshall (HMP Edinburgh)

On 9 August 2019 a Fatal Accident Inquiry report into the death of Allan Stewart Marshall was published. It concluded that the cause of the accident that led to Allan Marshall's death was the continual physical restraint and forceful resistance of this restraint. The incident occured at HMP Edinburgh's Segregation and Reintegration Unit on 24 March 2015, whilst he was suffering from an episode of Excited Delirium Syndrome. The inquiry found that there were a number of precautions which could reasonably have been taken, and which had they been taken, might realistically have prevented his death. It highlighted system failures; training failures; defects in systems of working; unclear chains of command and responsibility; and credibility and reliability issues with many of the prison officer witnesses. Following its publication, questions were raised about the decision taken not to instigate criminal proceedings and to grant immunity to the SPS officers involved. It was also reported that SPS took court action to prevent the publication of CCTV images of the incident, which contradicted evidence given during the inquiry.

FAI - Allan Marshall

Scottish Government response to FAI

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