McArthur: Prisoners should be pocketing an education

Responding to the publication of the reconviction rates in Scotland in 2017-18, Scottish Liberal Democrat justice spokesperson Liam McArthur MSP commented

"The right way to cut crime is to have robust alternatives to custody. These are effective and credible sentences that cut crime and make communities safer. Locking more people up for longer has been proven not to work.

"Where prison is necessary, everyone should be pocketing an education and new skills. These should sit alongside basics like ensuring people have a bank account on release, somewhere to sleep, the same people working with them before and after they leave, and new checks on whether they achieve a positive post-prison destination such as employment.

"These Scottish Liberal Democrat proposals are common sense policies that will make our communities safer."

The Scottish Liberal Democrats' plan, submitted to the Justice Committee last summer, is as follows:

  1. Reinvest savings made through reducing the prison population into community-based options, commit to 3-year funding rounds for criminal justice programmes, recognise the importance of council budgets given their role in rehabilitating people, conduct an audit of existing compulsory requirements to establish which are effective, and extend City Deals to allow innovative measures to build community resilience and tackle reoffending;
  2. Routinely record adverse childhood experiences, as recommended by Scottish Government advisor Sir Harry Burns;
  3. Give people on remand the opportunity to undertake short-courses, with the assurance that their engagement with purposeful activity does not imply guilt;
  4. Support people to keep their tenancies and other commitments where appropriate;
  5. Work through the NHS and Scottish Prison Service to fulfil the objectives of the 2011 joint memorandum of understanding on healthcare provision, alongside implementing a healthcare plan for people suffering ill health within 2 weeks of their entering prison, giving them the best chance for their health, especially mental health, to be improved upon release and get on in life;
  6. Make sure the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service begin fatal accident inquiries into deaths in prison within 12 months to ensure lessons that can save lives are learned;
  7. Island proof prisons’ policies, including the expansion of video conferencing for families;
  8. Support purposeful activity in prison to equip people for employment, including literacy and numeracy skills, accredited qualifications, and options aligned to shortages in employment, supported by occupational therapists;
  9. Make sure people have a bank account and have had their social security eligibility assessed before they leave prison, if relevant, for example through a fit to work assessment before release;
  10. Expand throughcare and mentoring, delivered by dedicated additional 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, underpinned by Housing First principles;
  11. Work with justice partners, to measure whether people achieve positive post-prison destinations such as education, employment or training, and to publish the results alongside existing reconviction rates, to provide an evidence basis for the future introduction of a youth-guarantee equivalent;
  12. Extend the Scottish Business Pledge to include a commitment to providing a level playing field for applicants who have completed a sentence.

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