Scottish Liberal Democrat justice spokesperson Liam McArthur MSP today said public protection must be the prison service's top priority after the number of escapes, incorrectly released prisoners and incorrectly detained prisoners was revealed.
In response to a freedom of information request from the party, the Scottish Prison Service revealed that in the past five years two prisoners have escaped from custody. There have been a further 34 incidents where prisoners have been either released or detained in error.
Mr McArthur said:
"While these incidents are few and far between they represent a threat to the wellbeing of prisoners and a risk to the public.
"Public protection must remain the top priority when it comes to transporting and releasing prisoners. However, risks need to be minimised and pressures alleviated across the prison system for the sake of the welfare, wellbeing and protection of staff and all those who are imprisoned.
"Scotland has one of the highest prison populations in Europe. With reports that staff are being "run ragged" and clear evidence that too many people are being sent to prison when more effective disposals are available, the potential for mistakes to be made is there.
"It is time for radical and ambitious reform which reduces the pressure on the prison service, reduces reoffending and enables SPS staff to focus on engaging more with serious long-term offenders. Ending the use of ineffective short-term sentences is a good place to start.
"In the meantime, the Scottish Government has a responsibility to ensure that prisoner management systems are as robust as they can be."