Justice Committee to investigate overcrowding in Scottish prisons

Written by Emily Woods on 30 July 2019 in News

The committee wants to hear about staffing levels in prisons, over-crowding, drugs use, safety and security of staff and prisoners

Justice Committee convener Margaret Mitchell MSP - Image credit: Scottish Parliament

The Scottish Parliament’s Justice Committee is seeking views on Scotland’s prison system in response to fears the Scottish Prison Service (SPS) is under pressure from “record high-levels of incarceration”.

Last week the SPS announced it had suspended the Throughcare Support Service (TSS), which transitions prisoners back into the community after custody, and support officers had been reassigned to prison officer roles due to overcrowding.

Howard League Scotland warned this meant SPS was “forced to concentrate on internal day to day operational issues” at the expense of managing effective transition of prisoners back into the community, and called on the Scottish Government to take “immediate action” to reduce the prison population.

Today Justice Committee convener Margaret Mitchell MSP said the TSS announcement and "record high levels of incarceration" had left the prison system under pressure.

“The Scottish Government has made a range of commitments to improve our post-conviction criminal justice system, but are these commitments prioritised with budget spending?

“To allow the Justice Committee to hold the Scottish Government to account, we need to gather the views of those involved with the system, before asking some probing questions.”

The committee will gather information on prison spending and alternatives to custody, as part of a wider review of budgets in the justice portfolio, before it considers the Scottish Government’s draft 2020/21 budget and future spending in this area.

The committee will seek to hear more about challenges and financial requirements to tackle issues including “staffing levels in prisons, overcrowding, drugs use, safety and security of staff and prisons”. It will also look at “the use of open estate” and Scotland’s ageing prison population.

Views on how to rebalance expenditure on prisons with community-based alternatives to incarceration, preventative spending, and the challenges in remote and rural area will also be probed.

The committee will examine budgets provided to the public, third and voluntary sectors for health, education, employment, throughcare, family contact, rehabilitation and re-offending, in-cell technology and other services provided to prisoners.



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