Prisons

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.

 

HMIPS First Liaison Visit to HMP Addiewell

On 1 July 2020, HMIPS published a report on its COVID19 Liaison Visit to HMP Addiewell. Similarly to its findings from HMP Edinburgh, it had to be pointed out that those people in isolation should have access to fresh air and without this their human rights were being breached.

HMIPS First Liaison Visit to HMP Edinburgh

On 25 June 2020, HMIPS published its first COVID19 Liaison Visit report on its short inspection of HMP Edinburgh. It advised that things were being well-handled, although had to remind the Governor that those in isolation needed to be given the opportunity to access fresh air under the guidelines set out by HPS. It also advised that significant issues around mental and physical health were likely to resurface once lockdown was eased. 

HMIPS: Remote Monitoring and Liaison Visits

From June 2020, Liaison Visit Reports were published by HM Inspectorate of Prisons for Scotland. These were informed by the Remote Monitoring Framework and Liaison Visits Framework. The first report on a Liaison Visit to HMP Edinburgh was published on 25 June 2020. It advised that the prison was managing the COVID19 situation well, however, a reminder was required that those in isolation needed to be given the opportunity to access fresh air under the guidelines set by Health Protection Scotland (HPS). It also advised that significant issues around mental and physical health were likely to resurface once regime restrictions were eased.

The human rights imperative of access to fresh air for those people in isolation also required to be flagged during a later Liaison Visit to HMP Addiewell.

All reports can be accessed here.

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