News

Prisoner Voting

That Scotland denied prisoners the right to vote during the independence referendum undermined the fabric of our democracy and the principle of universal suffrage. In this essay Albie Sachs and HLS President Andrew Coyle review the current ban on prisoner voting in Scotland, England and Wales. How can the Scottish Government make real its social justice mantra when it denied such a large population a right to be counted as a member of a democratic Scottish society during the independence referendum?

Read the essay here: The Right to Vote | Scottish Justice Matters | Vol 3 | Number 1 | March 2015

Experiencing Long-term Imprisonment in Scotland

Based on extensive interviews with long-term prisoners in Scotland, this fantastic 2 page essay from Dr Marguerite Schinkel in SJM illuminates how long-term prisoners experience their sentence, anger about the en masse rehabilitation process and trying to desist when back in the community while faced with the life long burden of having to disclose a criminal record.

Read the full article here: Fair Enough | Scottish Justice Matters | Vol 3 | Number 1 | March 2015
 

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

Automatic Early Release

HLS have raised concerns regarding the evidential basis for proposed changes to the practice of automatic early release. The assumption upon which the proposal is founded seems to be that increasing the proportion of the sentence spent in custody would result in reduced recidivism - a point which is not supported by evidence and, furthermore, risks increasingly the punitive character of the penal system, tipping it away from the aims of rehabilitation; particularly as the increased prison sentence may be at the expense of post-release community supervision. Further, the proposed changes could potentially have a profoundly negative impact on imprisonment rates, overall cost of SPS and yet make little adjustment to the transparency of early release processes. Quite simply, what exactly is being proposed remains unclear, but speaks of a desire for increased use of imprisonment in Scotland, despite the Scottish Government's desire to reduce imprisonment.

Read more:

Justice Committee | Offcial Report | Evidence Session |Automatic Early Release | February 2015
Justice Committee | Offcial Report | Evidence Session |Automatic Early Release | March 2015
Expensive and Immoral: The Case for Sentencing Reform | Open Society

Prisoners (Control of Release) (Scotland) Bill Feb 2015

We note that the Scottish Government intends to increase the scope of the Bill to end automatic early release for all prisoners serving sentences of over four years’ duration. We also note that the Scottish Government intends to bring forward proposals at Stage 2 to ensure that all prisoners serving sentences of over four years’ duration will be subject to a minimum period of compulsory supervision in the community.

HLS refer members of the Justice Committee to the evidence Howard League Scotland submitted on the Scottish Government’s earlier proposals to end automatic early release in May 2014.

It seems highly likely that these revised proposals will impact on a larger proportion of the prison population in Scotland than the original proposals. These proposals are therefore at odds with the Scottish Government’s aspiration to reduce the size of the prison population.

However, in the absence of further detail beyond that contained in the two page letter from the Cabinet Secretary for Justice to the Justice Committee Convener dated 3 February 2015, it is difficult for us to provide further comment on these proposals. Indeed, it is a matter of concern to us that the Justice Committee is being asked to form a view on these proposals as part of its Stage 1 report without sight of a revised policy memorandum, financial memorandum and explanatory notes on the Bill.

Howard League Scotland 16 February 2015

 

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