Scottish Liberal Democrat justice spokesperson Liam McArthur MSP has today called for the Scottish Government to “drastically reduce” the prison population and finally commit to making rehabilitation a priority, as he submitted his party’s plan to the Scottish Parliament’s Justice Committee investigation into prisons and alternatives to custody spending.
The plan includes:
- For less serious offences, prison should be seen as an alternative to community-based sentences, rather than the other way around, with judges given confidence in this approach.
- Reinvest savings made through reducing the prison population into community-based options.
- Support people to keep their tenancies and other commitments where appropriate.
- Make sure people have a bank account and have had their social security eligibility assessed before they leave prison.
- Expand throughcare and mentoring, delivered by dedicated additional staff capable of working with people before and after they leave prison to provide continuity.
- 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.
Recent investigations by the Scottish Liberal Democrats have uncovered spiralling rates of self-harm, people waiting up to 42 weeks to start basic skills courses and that prisons are full to bursting, with two thirds over capacity and Barlinnie almost 500 over its stated capacity.
Commenting on the proposals, Liam McArthur MSP said:
“These proposals have been developed to ensure that Scottish justice is tough but fair, punishing offenders while ensuring that there is the best possible chance that they can reintegrate back into the community once they have served their sentence, if indeed jail is necessary at all.
“For too long the SNP approach has been overcautious and underwhelming. As a result the prison population has spiralled to such a level that prison bosses have had to shut down critical rehabilitation services altogether.
“Scotland needs to drastically reduce its prison population. To do this we need community-based alternatives which are robust and credible and a clear plan to ensure that when your sentence is done, prison officers aren’t greeting you again a month or two down the line.
“Scottish Liberal Democrats have put forward bold proposals in a crisis. I hope that the Justice Committee and the Scottish Government will recognise that and begin to move forward.”