life imprisonment

Scotland Must Reform Life Sentences

Scotland’s punitive sentencing system has come under scrutiny today by Prof Dirk Van Zyl Smit, who was invited to Scotland by HLS. HLS are very pleased that the need to reform life sentences in Scotland has received wide coverage in today’s Herald. There it is reported that in the Netherlands there are 30 lifers, compared to Scotland’s 1000. Research being conducted by Prof Van Zyl Smit shows that Scotland sentences more people to life than England and Wales. A startling research finding has also revealed that Scotland has double the number of people on life sentences than France. This evidence about Scotland’s automatic life sentences helps partially explain Scotland’s incredibly high prison population and calls into question punitive suggestions for whole life tariffs.

The reasons for the disparity is that in other countries it is acknowledged in sentencing policy that all murderers are not dangerous and do not require life long exclusion. HLS are quoted in the news coverage. We strongly advocate for a reduction in the use of automatic life sentences. If Scotland aspires to be the develop the most progressive social policy in the English-speaking world than we must abandon penal policy in Scotland that is unnecessarily retributive. As Dirk Van Zyl Smit is quoted as saying: ‘Scottish people often have an idea of the criminal justice system as not being as harsh as elsewhere. At the top end that is not true’. 

  • Tickets for Dirk Van Zyl Smit’s talk are available here

 

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

Automatic Early Release

'No long-term prisoner in Scotland will in future be eligible for automatic release after two thirds of their sentence, after First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced an end to the current system of automatic early release for all offenders serving more than four years', the Scottish government has announced.

read more here: http://news.scotland.gov.uk/News/End-of-automatic-early-release-for-all-...

HLS in the news: automatic early release

HLS was called to give evidence to the Justice Committee on a proposed Bill which would remove automatic early release for prisoners serving the longest sentences. Lisa Mackenzie, policy and public affairs manager, is quoted stressing the need for an evidence based approach: 'Let's measure the proposals against the policy objectives - I think we have some concerns they won't live up to that'.

Read more here:
Glasgow South and Eastwood ExtraPrisoners plan 'may increase risk'
Scotsman“No merit” in ending of early prison release

 

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