Scottish Prison Population Statistics 2019 - 2020

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.


Category Prisons