Less than a third of prisoners learning skills at some Scottish prisons

Today, Scottish Liberal Democrat justice spokesperson Liam McArthur has revealed that as many as three quarters of detainees in Scottish prisons went without attending a single a single education or skills class in the past month.

A Scottish Liberal Democrat freedom of information request answered by the Scottish Prison Service reveals that only a quarter of prisoners in Edinburgh attended at least one education class during May, the lowest proportion in Scotland. This was followed by Glenochil (30%) and Shotts and Castle Huntly (both 31%). By contrast, 100% of prisoners at Inverness and Cornton Vale undertook at least one education class.

Following the revelations, Mr McArthur called on the Scottish Government to ensure that better use is made of the time spent in prison, by using courses as part of a ‘coherent plan’ for prisoner rehabilitation.

Scottish Liberal Democrats are undertaking a major investigation into prison education. Yesterday the party revealed that hundreds of prisoners are waiting up to 42 weeks for basic skills courses such as English, maths and cookery skills.

Earlier this year, following a Parliamentary Question from Mr McArthur, it was revealed that the average time detainees spent on ‘purposeful activity’ amounted to as little as 12 hours a week. In Barlinnie, this figure had reduced from an average of 27 hours a week in 2013/14, to 16 hours a week in 2017/18.

Commenting on the figures Mr McArthur said:

“In too many of Scotland’s prisons, fewer than one in three are attending any education classes.

“People in prison are literally a captive audience. The time people have there must be better used to address the causes of their behaviour, to give them skills so they can get work, and to establish a coherent plan for their rehabilitation.

“Lengthy waits for courses on many of the most basic skills will not help with uptake one bit. We know that two thirds of Scottish prisons are overcrowded and with prisoners packed in this tightly it becomes much harder for staff to work with and help to rehabilitate people.

“When the Chief Inspector of Prisons for Scotland stepped down last year he warned that there were serious challenges in helping people in prison access purposeful activity. The Scottish Government need to ensure that long waits are tackled as a matter of urgency.”

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