Scottish Liberal Democrats condemn “bumper” 8000 prison population


Scottish Liberal Democrat justice spokesperson Liam McArthur MSP has today called for renewed action to combat Scotland’s inflated prison population after it surpassed 8,000, returning it to the highest levels of incarceration seen since the establishment of the Scottish Parliament.

On 22nd February the Scottish prison population was 8,020.

The Scottish Liberal Democrat spring conference last week adopted new reoffending policies, including:

  • For less serious offences, prison should be seen as an alternative to community-based sentences, rather than the other way around;
  • Reinvest savings made through reducing the prison population into community-based options;
  • Boost purposeful activity and align it with shortages in the labour market;
  • Make sure people have a bank account and have had their social security eligibility assessed before they leave prison;
  • Expand throughcare and mentoring, with new staff capable of working with people before and after they leave prison to provide continuity, alongside a new right to housing, welfare and healthcare appointments within 48 hours of release;
  • Start measuring positive post-prison destinations such as education, employment and training;
  • Extend the Scottish Business Pledge to include a commitment to providing a level playing field for applicants who have completed a sentence.

Liam McArthur said:

“Scotland’s prisons are bursting at the seams. Taking incarceration rates back up towards the highest levels seen by the Scottish Parliament is not a sign of a progressive justice system.

“Two thirds of Scotland’s prisons are officially overcrowded. This bumper prison population just isn’t sustainable. It’s putting prison staff and inmates at risk.

“The evidence shows that community sentences are better than prison at reducing the chance of people reoffending, meaning communities are safer.

“The savings that can be made from the new presumption against sentences of less than 12 months must be reinvested into making community-based sentences robust. We also need to prevent reoffending by giving people the skills they need to get on in life alongside intensive support with housing, welfare and healthcare before and after they leave prison.

“Without this, Scotland faces a longer term sentence of regressive and outdated criminal justice.”


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