Scottish Liberal Democrat justice spokesperson Liam McArthur MSP has called the decision to scrap a key rehabilitation service "completely perverse", as it is revealed that the throughcare service that helped 100 prisoners a month move on and away from reoffending has been dropped because of overwhelmed prisons.
The throughcare service paired prisoners up with a support officer who helped them make arrangements for housing, medical provision and benefits, both before and after release.
The service was suspended "temporarily" in summer 2019, as the 45 staff trained to deliver throughcare were redeployed to manage the record numbers being in held in Scottish prisons. At the time, the Justice Secretary said the service would restart "when circumstances permit".
Now it has been revealed that it was never restarted, with only a commitment to "exploring" future throughcare support. No throughcare staff have returned to their previous rehabilitation roles.
Liam McArthur commented:
"This rehabilitation service has been suspended for 18 months already. This news looks like the end of the road.
"It's completely perverse to ditch rehabilitation services just because there are too many people in our prisons. Support like this makes the difference between a life rehabilitated, and a life of reoffending. Communities are less safe if we let people fall through the cracks.
“We've heard countless stories of people leaving prison with only a few pounds to their name and nowhere to go. The Scottish Government should be finding ways to offer more support, not removing the little that was being offered.
"Bosses recognise the benefits of this service and it wasn't a choice they wanted to make. But the SNP have presided over a prisons crisis. Even before the pandemic struck, I had uncovered record overcrowding, 42-week waits to start basic courses and spiralling rates of self-harm.
"Scottish Liberal Democrats have set out common sense policies that will make our communities safer. We want to see everyone pocketing an education and new skills while they are in prison. This 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."