Scottish Liberal Democrat justice spokesperson Liam McArthur MSP has today kicked off a Liberal Democrat investigation into education in prison, as he revealed huge waits for classes intended to give prisoners basic skills.
Mr McArthur warned that these delays are a barrier to rehabilitation, and are preventing prisoners from turning their lives around. Mr McArthur called for the Scottish Government to reduce this backlog as a matter of urgency.
Freedom of information requests submitted by Scottish Liberal Democrats to the Scottish Prison Service uncovered:
- 525 people on waiting lists for classes at Edinburgh, with waiting lists of up to 32 weeks for ‘English and Communications’ and ‘Life Skills (including cooking)’.
- 328 people on waiting lists at Polmont, including 87 people waiting up to 42 weeks for ‘ICT, multi-media, distance learning, languages and e-learning’ and 81 people are waiting up to 36 weeks for ‘English and communications’.
- 201 people on waiting lists at Glenochil, with waiting lists of up to 12 weeks for ‘Maths and numeracy’.
Commenting on the figures Mr McArthur said:
“Preventing people from learning skills that could help them navigate life after release is a lost opportunity. We know that furnishing prisoners with the basics for employment and beyond helps to stop them falling back into bad habits.
“Prison isn’t constructive if these programmes are side-lined. Instead, people are forced to break the ties they do have with education or employment, and are returned to their community with significantly reduced prospects. It’s not hard to see why reoffending is so common.
“Similarly, waits of almost six months for English and Maths are disappointing given how poor the literacy and numeracy skills of many people in prison are.
“Two thirds of Scottish prisons are overcrowded. With prisoners packed in this tightly it becomes much harder for staff to work with and help to rehabilitate people, and that strain is clearly shown in these waiting times. The Scottish Government need to ensure that long waits are tackled as a matter of urgency.”