SPS Prisoner Surveys 2011-2013

SPS have published the latest series of Prison Surveys. The surveys capture some key issues and needs of the Scottish prison population.

Read them here:

  • Key Themes are linked to day-to-day routines of prison life, such as hygiene, atmosphere, drug use, food, visits, exercise as well as important questions about experience of begin in care during developmental years - something which is much more prevalent among prison population than the general population. Additional questions  exploring knife crime have also been added.
  • Remand Bulletin which focuses on remand prisoners experiences of living conditions, family contact, healthcare, relationships, atmosphere and perceived safety 
  • Female Offenders highlights what is a very small population size with significant needs
  • Looked After Children surveyed prisoners' histories of care, with 27% of adult population having been in care
  • Young Offenders just focusing on male young offenders, however.
  • Older Prisoners  have higher rates of disability than younger prisoners and much high prevelence of long-term illnesses 
  • Military Veteran Prisoners
  • Establishment Changes compares individual inmate drug use between prisons

SPS Custodial History and Substance Misuse 2014

March 2014 SPS published the 14th Custodial and Substance Misuse Bulletin, which is published every two years. The information gathered in the document is based on census style survey sent to all Scottish prisoners across each of Scotland's 16 prisons, which had a response rate of 60%.

Key Findings:

  • Avg Age: 34 years old
  • 82% of prisoners were sentenced and 18% were untried
  • 94% of the population were males
  • 6% were females

Sentence Length:

  • 5% serving up to 90 days
  • 5% serving over 10 years
  • 11% Life sentences
  • 21% serving 3-12 months
  • 25% serving between 4-10years
  • 32% over 1 year up to 4 years

Drug Use:

There is a significant correlation between intensity of drug use and number of times someone had been in prison. Of those who had never been in prison before only 10% reported using drugs in the month prior to prison, while 50% of those with 10 sentences or more reported using drugs in the month prior to prison. One third of people serving 10 or more sentences committed their crime to get money for drugs and 60% of them reported that they were under the influence of drugs at the time of their offence. Drug use is significantly higher among all groups of female prisoners and the report notes that drugs is a much more significant problem in the community for women who end up in prison


There is a strong correlation between the number of times someone has been in prison and whether they had previously been in care. Of the 10 sentences or more cohort 52% had been in care as a child. They also were more likely to have witnessed violence as a child.

Read the full report here: SPS Custodial History  and Substance Misuse 2014

Scottish Prison Population May 2014

Criminal Justice Social Work Annual Report 2012-13

Annual statistical bulletin on criminal justice social work in Scotland

Read the report here:

SCCJR Report on Training for SPS Staff

The work of prison officers is often a delicate balancing act. They must find the measure between the over-arching security concerns of their work as well as manage the often personal and supportive roles they take on with prisoners. If we are interested in transforming prisons, then we must also take interest in prison staff. As a recent  snapshot on prison officer research from the SCCJR states, people 'have all too often expended relatively little effort or imagination in grasping their position and its challenges'. 

The SCCJR have recently published their Annual Report, April 2013-March 2014. One of their many projects includes 'Developing a Professional Qualification for Scottish Prison Service: A Report on Exploratory Work'. The research was commissioned in the wake of the promising and ambitious SPS Organizational Review, 'Unlocking Potential, Transforming Lives', which illustrated a desire to develop prison service staff training and skills. 176 interviews were conducted with prison staff in all of Scotland's prisons to give voice to their views, concerns and hopes for the proposed changes in professional training.


  • Some staff, particularly long-serving staff, were dubious professional training will enhance their working lives;
  • Others believed it was a beneficial suggestion, but doubted it would come to fruition;
  • The majority of staff embraced the idea of increased education and professional qualifications for prison staff;
  • The key areas identified by staff as requiring development were 'people skills, 'dealing with people' and 'insight';
  • The majority of staff were positive about engaging in more mentoring style relationships with prisoners.


  • Develop an externally credible course;
  • Develop core modules which 'would involve values, standards and behaviours as well as knowledge and understanding';
  • Opportunities for specialised training;
  • Encourage and make possible continued professional development.

For more from the SCCJR read here