Scottish Liberal Democrat justice spokesperson Liam McArthur MSP has today urged the Scottish Government to put its money where its mouth is, as new figures showed more than 1,000 people spent last Christmas in prison after being handed a “needless” short-term sentence.
The figures, provided by the Scottish Prison Service in response to a freedom of information request from the Scottish Liberal Democrats, show 1,017 prisoners out of a total prison population of 7,792 were on sentences of less than a year.
Mr McArthur commented:
“Last year over 1,000 people were behind bars at Christmas because of a needless reliance on short-term sentences.
“This is despite all the evidence showing these stints are disruptive, ineffective, and ultimately more damaging for the community. By contrast, robust community-based sentences have a much better track record of rehabilitation and reducing reoffending.
“It’s why Scottish Liberal Democrats fought hard for the introduction of a stronger presumption against short sentences. The Scottish Government eventually agreed, but these figures show that Ministers need to do more to ensure this is not just a hollow policy.”
Mr McArthur added:
“Independent experts agree that our prisons are at crisis point. I’ve uncovered waits of up to 42-weeks to start basic courses, spiralling rates of self-harm, and SPS rehabilitation services have had to be abolished altogether in the face of the soaring population. It’s not an environment in which people can easily turn their lives around.
“The Scottish Government must now relieve this pressure and make the new presumption work by properly resourcing community-based sentencing options. It is the best way to ensure justice is served and keep people safe.”