prison costs

Scottish Imprisonment - Recent trends and Costs


  • On 10 October 2014 the total population of prisoners in custody in Scotland stood at 7,755.
  • Over one-third of the adult male population, and nearly one-tenth of the adult female population is likely to have at least one criminal conviction.
  • The imprisonment rate for Scotland stands at 147 per 100,000. England and Wales have an imprisonment rate of 149 per 100,000, France 102 per 100,000 and Germany 81 per 100,000.
  • In 2012–13, 14,758 people were given a custodial sentence, accounting for 15% of people found guilty of an offence, the highest proportion in the last 10 years.
  • The average length of a custodial sentence in 2012-13 was over nine months (283 days), this is 51 days longer than in 2006-07.
  • On 6 August 2010 a statutory presumption against short periods of imprisonment was decreed in the Scottish Parliament. The Criminal Justice and Licensing (Scotland) Act 2010 states “a court must not pass a sentence of imprisonment for a term of three months or less on a person unless the court considers that no other method of dealing with the person is appropriate.”
  • The proportion of people receiving a sentence of up to 3 months has fallen from 53% of custodial sentences in 2006–07 to 29% in 2012–13.
  • The official capacity for all 15 Scottish prisons is 8,155.During 2013–14 an average of 7,835 prisoners were held in custody a slight fall on the previous year (2012–13, 8,014).
  • The average daily population of sentenced prisoners in 2013–14 fell slightly to 6,375.However, the remand population saw a slight increase over the same period, rising to 1,476.
  • There are currently 14 publicly managed prisons and two privately managed prisons, both run by Serco (HMP Kilmarnock and HMP Addiewell).Combined, the two private prisons held some 1,200 prisoners in 2013–14, 15% of Scotland’s prison population.
  • Recent changes to the prison estate include the closure of HMP Peterhead and HMP Aberdeen in December 2013 and January 2014 respectively, and the opening of HMP Grampian in March 2014, costing £77.7m to construct.
  • The average daily population on Home Detention Curfew (HDC) during 2013–14 was 364. In 2012–13 it was 363.
  • The average daily population of prisoners recalled from supervision or licence has increased by 36% to 701 in 2011–12, from 514 in 2006–07.108The most common reason for being recalled is for failure to comply with the technical conditions of the curfew rather than committing crimes while on HDC. Being out of curfew for more than six hours (38% of all recalls) and breach of licence conditions (24%) accounted for most recall activity. Offending while on licence appears only rarely to be the cause of recall (7% recalled for a new warrant served).
  • In 2012–13, just 10 custodial sentences were imposed on children under the age of 16.


  • The average annual cost per prisoner place for 2013–14 was £33,153, excluding capital charges, exceptional compensation claims and the cost of the escort contract. This is an increase of £1,227 on the previous year.
  • A 2011 report found that it costs £126 per week to keep someone on HDC, compared to a notional cost of £610 per week to keep them in prison.
  • Hugh Monro, former Chief Inspector of Prisons for Scotland, has stated that “Securing children, young offenders or prisoners is not a cheap option ... the cost of keeping a child in a Secure Unit can be as high as £250k per annum.”
  • Of the £419 million that Audit Scotland estimated was spent by authorities to deal with people sentenced in court in 2010–11, £254 million (61%) was spent restricting the liberty of offenders. 14% (£60.8 million) was spent on rehabilitation and 16% (£66.7 million) was spent on reintegration services to support prisoners moving back into the community.
  • The Scottish Government estimates that the total economic and social costs of reoffending are around £3 billion a year. Further research estimated the total cost of reoffending by a single cohort of offenders who had three or more previous convictions over a ten-year period was £5.4 billion. This is considered an under-estimate as it does not include all the costs incurred by bodies outside the criminal justice system.

Via The Bromley Briefings

Scottish Government’s Draft Budget 2014/15

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

We are grateful for the opportunity to comment upon the Scottish Government’s Draft Budget 2014/15 as it relates to the Justice portfolio.

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








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