News

Management of offenders (Scotland) Act - Electronic Monitoring

On 11 August 2020, a Ministerial Statement from the Cabinet Secretary advised of plans to introduce regulations to enable electronic monitoring of bail through the Management of Offenders  (Scotland) Act 2019. We would have liked to have seen this included in the primary legislation to help reduce the number of people being held on remand, however, welcome acknowledgement of the need for secondary legislation to allow for this.

Outstanding Unpaid Work (Community Payback Orders)

On 15 July 2020, Social Work Scotland published an important paper drawing attention to the 700K outstanding hours of unpaid work under community payback orders and imploring the Scottish Government to use secondary legislation to reduce this by 450K hours in order to avoid serious ramifications across the whole criminal justice system. We welcomed this timely intervention, with its insightful comment and detailed modelling.

HMP Dumfries Full Inspection

On 30 July 2020, a full pre-COVID inspection report on HMP Dumfries was published advising that there were no offence-focused programmes available on-site with long waiting lists for progression assessments and programmes. Given that there is currently no movement between sites this has serious implications for prisoners’ release and is something we will be following up.

New European Prison Rules

On 14 July 2020 revised European Prison Rules were published, which reiterated that regime restriction cannot be justified by lack of resources/staff absence rates; and for the first time, specified the non-disciplinary circumstances under which prisoners can be separated from others, stating that “for any reason, prisoners who are separated shall be offered at least two hours of meaningful human contact a day”. We highlighted that these human rights issues were something which needed to be borne in mind in any future prison inspections.

Scottish Prison Population Statistics 2019 - 2020

On 14 July 2020, the Scottish Government published its Scottish Prison Population Statistics 2019 – 2020  with its finding that following several years of sustained decrease, the prison population had risen sharply since 2017-18 to an annual average of around 8,200 in 2019-20.

One of our Committee Members, Dr.Katrina Morrison summarised our response to some of the figures: rising imprisonment is caused by the length of sentences, not by the number of sentences passed. Whilst diversion and bail should also be increased, we would argue that the priority of sentencing reform should be on sentence length for all crime types, but beginning first with reform of longer sentences.

The number of people released also matters, but the numbers released on Home Detention Curfew (HDC) in particular, remain stubbornly low. Noting that in 2019/20 only 1% of departures were on HDC, one option would be to restore the target of 10% of people leaving prison, as it stood for most of the past decade.

The report also highlights a decline in parole (which we believe should be monitored), as well as the end of automatic early release, as possible factors affecting overall numbers.

There are clear and sobering messages about deprivation and imprisonment which have remained consistent over past 10 years, which suggests that the problem is not crime or criminal justice alone, but poverty, inequality and lack of opportunity which requires wholesale changes across society and most immediately to issues like housing, given the rising numbers of prisoners beginning their sentence coming from no fixed abode.

 

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