Scottish Liberal Democrat justice spokesperson Liam McArthur MSP has today called on the Scottish Government to "take to heart" the words of the departing HM Chief Inspector of Prisons for Scotland, David Strang, as he issued his final report on the prison service and called for a range of reforms.
Areas of concern identified include:
- people being sent to prison on short sentences, "whose incarceration is more likely to result in further victims of crime"
- a need for greater attention to preparing people for their release and reintegration back into their community
- barriers to housing and support for people leaving prison at the end of their sentence
- "slow" progress towards health and social care reform
- how the female prison population will be reduced by 34% within two years
- people not accessing treatment or purposeful activity programmes
- the failure to develop digital skills
Mr McArthur said:
"David Strang has been a diligent and conscientious Chief Inspector of Prisons and his final act in the role is to lay out a series of recommendations that the Scottish Government would do well to take to heart.
"We urgently need a presumption against sentences of less than 12 months. We know 60% of people given short-term sentences re-offend within a year of release, whereas robust community-based sentences are far more successful.
"People should never leave prison with just a few pounds in their pocket and nowhere stable to live, causing people to reoffend in pursuit of some stability. That is why throughcare should be extended to every single prisoner, giving them support with the likes of housing, employment and healthcare, that starts inside and seamlessly continues after their release.
"As David Strang makes clear, the Scottish Government must do far more to ensure that prisons create citizens who are equipped to contribute after their release, not hardened criminals doomed to repeat the same mistakes."