Independent monitoring of prisons

Independent monitoring of prisons

In September 2013, the Scottish Government laid a draft parliamentary order setting out the future arrangements for the independent monitoring of prisons in Scotland. It is proposed that three part-time paid monitors based within HM Inspectorate of Prisons Scotland will oversee the monitoring of all 16 penal establishments in Scotland and direct an as yet unspecified number of unpaid, lay monitors to carry out monitoring duties. Howard League Scotland, as well as a number of other stakeholders, provided written evidence to the Justice Committee on the draft order ( and Policy and Public Affairs Manager Lisa Mackenzie gave oral evidence to the Justice Committee on 20 November 2013, the official report of which can be found here:

Howard League Scotland is a member of the Independent Monitoring Implementation Group set up by the Scottish Government to implement the recommendations of the Coyle Review that were accepted by the Scottish Government.

Appointment of Howard League Scotland’s first President

Prof Andrew Coyle

We are delighted to announce the appointment of Howard League Scotland’s first ever President, Professor Andrew Coyle. Professor Coyle is Emeritus Professor of Prison Studies in the University of London and Visiting Professor in the Centre for Human Rights in the University of Essex. He has a PhD in criminology from the Faculty of Law in the University of Edinburgh and is a Fellow of King’s College London. He was appointed a Companion of the Order of St Michael and St George in the New Year’s Honours 2003 for his contribution to international penal reform.

Between 1997 and 2005 he was founding Director of the International Centre for Prison Studies in King’s College London. Previously he worked for 23 years at a senior level in the prison services of the United Kingdom and was Governor successively of Greenock, Peterhead, Shotts and Brixton Prisons.

He is a member of the Judicial Appointments Board for Scotland and the UK Foreign Secretary’s Expert Committee against Torture.

He is a prisons adviser to several United Nations bodies, the Council of Europe, including its Committee for the Prevention of Torture, and several national governments. He was one of the main drafters of the European Prison Rules 2006 and drafted the Code of Ethics for Prison Staff which was agreed by the Council of Europe in 2012.

In 2012 he was asked by the Scottish Government to review its proposals for independent monitoring of prisons. He submitted his review in January of this year and the Government is currently consulting on a draft Order setting out new arrangements for independent prison monitoring.

Female Imprisonment in Scotland - Survey 2013

The prisoner survey gives us insight  into the lives of various prisoner groups based on data gathered through a prison census.

Some key findings in relation to females in Scottish prisons include:

The average age of a female in prison in Scotland is 33 years.
15% were on remand and 85% were convicted.
30% of women were in care as a child
High numbers of people in prison made access to medical services and jobs in prison more difficult.
50% of women reported being drunk at the time of their offence
28% of women reported that drinking had affected their ability to maintain a job 

Read more here: Prisoner Survey 2013 - Female Offenders

Scottish Crime and Convictions Figures 2012-2013

The Criminal Proceedings in Scotland, 2012-2013 was published today. See below for a quick overview of some of the key facts and figures.

  • The number of people proceeded against by the courts fell by 7%, which is the lowest figure in ten years.
  • Fines constitute 53% of penalties.
  • 15% of people found guilty in a Scottish court receive a custodial sentences, which is a 3% increase since 2003-2004 The use of sentences for 6 months or less decreased by 8%.
  • The average custodial sentence in 2012-2013 was 283 days, which is just over 9 months.
  • 17% of those convicted received a community sentence, which is a considerable increase since 2003-2004, when 11% of people received community sentences.
  • 86% (14,924) of sentences are community payback orders.

Read the Criminal Proceedings in Scotland, 2012-2013 here 

Justice Budget 2014/15

Howard League for Penal Reform Scotland took this opportunity to highlight the financial benefits of a more community orientated justice system.

Howard League Scotland response to Scottish Government’s Draft Budget 2014/15

The aim of the Howard League for Penal Reform in Scotland is to promote just responses to the causes and consequences of crime. Scotland’s imprisonment rate is one of the highest in western Europe and far too many people reoffend after release from prison, particularly those who have served short term sentences.

We wish to make two points about the Draft Budget 2014/15.

  • Balance of resources for custodial and community-based disposals

As we understand it, the Scottish Government remains committed to the findings and recommendations of the report of the Scottish Prisons Commission (2008). Speaking September 2007, the Justice Secretary said: “I refuse to believe that Scottish people are inherently bad, so why are we locking up twice as many offenders as Ireland or Norway?” The report recommended reducing Scotland’s prison population by “focusing the use of imprisonment on those who have committed serious crimes and constitute a danger to the public”. And yet, since the report was published in 2008, the prison population has risen further.

We are therefore concerned to note that the budget for the Scottish Prison Service will rise in real terms from £364.5m in 2013/14 to £375.2m in 2014/15, including capital expenditure. Excluding capital expenditure, we note that the budget rises in cash terms from £342.0m in 2013/14 to £368.9 m in 2014/15, and is held at £368.2m in 2015/16, which will still represent a real terms increase over the period. Conversely the budget for community justice will experience a small real terms decrease from £31.9m in 2013/14 to £31.7m in 2014/15 and a further decrease to £31.1m in 2015/16.

If the Scottish Government is serious about reserving prison for the most serious and dangerous offenders and making greater use of community-based disposals, it is hard to see how this will happen without a greater shift in resources from custody to community justice. The budget for community justice is less than 10% of the budget for the Scottish Prison Service.

  • Capital expenditure on the female prison estate

As you will know, Scotland’s female prison population has doubled over the past decade and we were pleased that the Scottish Government accepted most of the recommendations of the report of the Commission on Women Offenders (2012). The report recommended the closure of HMP Cornton Vale and the establishment of a “smaller, specialist prison”. It also recommended “the establishment of a powerful community justice service with strong and robust alternatives to custody”.

With the proposed new facility at HMP Inverclyde, as well as the plans to create a regional facility for women at HMP Edinburgh, we remain concerned that there is to be no reduction in capacity for female offenders within the prison estate. We are concerned that this will militate against greater use of community disposals for female offenders. Given the damaging effects of prison on women and their families, it is vital that resources are directed towards community-based solutions to women’s offending behaviour.

11 October 2013

Howard League Scotland