penal policy

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-...

Inverclyde - a new year's resolution?

BRIEFING NOTE ON SCOTTISH GOVERNMENT’S PROPOSALS TO BUILD A NEW WOMEN’S PRISON

The 2012 Commission on Women Offenders (CWO) recommended that Cornton Vale should be 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 response to this recommendation, the Scottish Prison Service (SPS) proposes to replace Cornton Vale with a prison on the outskirts of Greenock to be known as HMP Inverclyde with a capacity to hold 300 women, with the option of increasing this to 350 places. The planned prison would hold convicted and remand adult and young offenders of varying legal and security categories and of varying sentence lengths, from short-term to life sentences.

As Howard League Scotland has made clear before, this represents a clear departure from the recommendation of the CWO report.

Earlier this week, the Cabinet Secretary for Justice Michael Matheson MSP and the Chief Executive of the Scottish Prison Service Colin McConnell gave evidence to the Scottish Parliament’s Justice Committee. Both were clear that they believed the proposed new women’s prison to be in keeping with the spirit and the letter of the CWO report recommendations.

When it comes to prison, size matters. To achieve a more rehabilitative enviroment in prison, smaller is better. More broadly, Howard League Scotland argues that the proposal to build a 350-bed new women’s prison is at odds with the Scottish Government’s commendable aspiration to reduce the prison population and that it undermines all the good work the Scottish Government has done and is doing to implement other recommendations contained within the 2012 report.

There are currently 390 women in prison in Scotland, the majority of whom do not need to be imprisoned for reasons of public protection. If the proposal for HMP Inverclyde goes ahead, the capacity of the female prison estate will be 500. Far from aiming for a reduction in the number of women in prison in Scotland, the Scottish Government is planning for an increase in that number.

There are a number of other options that would better deliver the recommendations in the report of the Commission on Women Offenders, which have not been considered by the Scottish Government. These could include, for example, the construction of a new small specialist prison - as envisaged in the CWO report - within the campus of Cornton Vale and surveying the possibility of converting available public or other accommodation, which might be used as local low security units to be managed by SPS or other agencies. Moving into 2015, there should be a proper examination of these options and the plan to build HMP Inverclyde should not proceed in its present form.

Find out more:

 

Getting it Right For Every Child

GIRFEC (Getting it right for every child) is Scotland's pan-social policy foundation principles for every government agency dealing with children.

The ten main principles are:

  1. A focus on improving outcomes for children, young people and their families based on a shared understanding of wellbeing
  2. A common approach to the proportionate sharing of information where appropriate
  3. An integral role for children, young people and families in assessment, planning and intervention
  4. A co-ordinated and unified approach to identifying concerns, assessing needs, and agreeing actions and outcomes, based on the wellbeing Indicators
  5. Streamlined planning, assessment and decision-making processes that lead to the right help at the right time
  6. Consistent high standards of co-operation, joint working and communication where more than one agency needs to be involved, locally and across Scotland
  7. A Named Person for every child and young person, and a Lead Professional (where necessary) to co-ordinate and monitor multi-agency activity
  8. Maximising the skilled workforce within universal services to address needs and risks as early as possible
  9. A confident and competent workforce across all services for children, young people and their families
  10. The capacity to share demographic, assessment, and planning information - including electronically - within and across agency boundaries

This is important for penal reform because we must ensure that young people who are themselves within the criminal justice system are protected by these principles. These principles can also be used as the measure with which to protect those children who are so often affected by parental imprisonment, and yet often remain largely forgotten (for more on this see Families Outside).

Getting it Right For Every Child
 

 

Baroness Corston: Inverclyde prison 'will fail'

HLS remain opposed to the Scottish Government's commitment to replace Cornton Vale with an even larger women's prison. This stands in direct contradiction to the plan laid out by The Angiolini Report, which illustrated the need for community based one stop shops. These centers would allow women to remain in their community and support them in dealing with their complex needs, such as addiction, homelessness, mental health problems and overcome histories of abuse - all of which we know to influence criminal behaviour.

The government's plan have received another damning indictment, this time from Baroness Jean Corston. In 2007 Corston carried out an extensive review of women's imprisonment in the UK which was widely welcomed and seen as one of the most significant policy reviews on this issue. The value of her insight and strength of her authority on what is best for women's penal policy cannot be overstated or underestimated, therefore. Spekaing to Hollyrood Magazine reviewed the plans for Inverclyde, her verdict being: 'It will fail'. The interview is a powerful statement, arguing that the cost of incarcerating women is too great a price to pay when there exist more effective alternatives, such as the 218 Project, the Willow Centre and Tomorrow's Women.

Read more:
HLS position on Inverclyde: http://www.scottish.parliament.uk/S4_JusticeCommittee/Inquiries/20140618...
Hollyrood Magazine: http://www.holyrood.com/2014/09/tough-labour-2/
The Corston Report: http://www.justice.gov.uk/publications/docs/corston-report-march-2007.pdf

Howard League Scotland calls for voting rights for prisoners

The Howard League for Penal Reform in Scotland today called for voting rights to be extended to convicted prisoners in all Scotland and UK wide elections.

Howard League Scotland Convener, John Scott QC, said:

“We have heard the First Minister speak about his aspirations for the franchise in Scotland with regard to 16 and 17 year olds, as well as his views about compulsory voting. Should the Scottish Parliament at some point in the future be granted powers to decide on the franchise for Scottish voters, we hope that MSPs will consider extending the franchise to convicted prisoners.

“At the very least, and in the absence of those powers, we call on all the Scottish parties to support the recommendations of the 2013 report of the Joint Committee of the UK Parliament which recommended giving the vote to prisoners serving sentences of less than 12 months.

“It is a source of huge regret to Howard League Scotland that the Scottish Parliament rejected all bids to allow prisoners serving a sentence to have a voice in the independence referendum. Over 6,000 people in Scottish prisons on 18 September, including all those whose sentence disqualified them from voting for no more than a matter of weeks or months, were deprived of any say at all in the permanent future of their nation.

“The decision to follow the UK’s complete ban on voting by convicted prisoners was a missed opportunity and left Scotland firmly outside the European democratic mainstream. The vast majority of the 47 Council of Europe nations allow some or all convicted prisoners to vote.”

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