Breaking the Cycle of Building Bigger Prisons

Breaking the Cycle of Building Bigger Prisons

As the Scottish government continue planning the expansion of the prison estate it can be difficult to generate an argument which counters building larger prisons while assuaging desires for public safety and the political pressure to keep up with the rise in the prisoner population.

On the face of it building larger prisons appears logical. Politically it evidences their increased commitment to public safety; in terms of prison management it offers the chance to reduce overcrowding. However, the evidence on prison size demonstrates that larger prisons have serious consequences which undermine the Scottish government’s commitment to safety of the community, prison officer and prisoner safety and prisoner rehabilitation.

A detailed and convincing report from the Prison Reform Trust shows those committed to smaller prisons tend to have a more positive experience:

If this evidence was to be taken seriously in the penal policy-making process then the certainty of the logic behind larger prisons and their place in long-term penal planning would look increasingly questionable. Expanding the prison estate will not reduce the prison population, as Sarah Armstrong writes, we do not need to slavishly follow prison populations, but can choose to do something different, such as addressing the social inequality that paves the road to imprisonment.

When discussing changes in criminal justice behaviour the focus is always on the convicted person ‘breaking their cycle of offending’. However, perhaps if we are to begin to change the future of Scotland’s prison landscape the challenge is to break the cycle of always building more prison spaces and bigger prisons.

Read the full report from PRT here: Titan Prisons: a gigantic mistake
Dr Sarah Amstrong: The problem with prison population predictions


Category Penal Policy