Dramatic drop in number of prisoners released into community after tightening of rules around home detention curfews
Electronic tag - Image credit: PA
A tightening of procedures around home detention curfews (HDC) has reduced the number of prisoners in the community by 80 per cent.
Whereas in 2018 there were around 300 prisoners in the community on HDC, now there are only 60.
Home detention curfews, where prisoners are released into the community with an electronic tag, have been used as a way of preparing prisoners nearing the end of their sentence for re-integration into society but after a review last year, many prisoners are now ineligible.
The review, by HM Inspectorate of Prisons for Scotland (HMIPS), followed the murder of Craig McClelland, who was killed by James Wright while Wright was unlawfully at large after breaching the terms of his curfew.
In its review in October 2018 HMIPS recommended 21 changes to Scottish Prison Service procedures, including making offenders who have been charged with violent crimes, possession of an offensive weapon or who have links to organised crime ineligible for HDC.
A progress report by HMIPS six months on found that the Scottish Prison Service is making good progress in implementing the changes, with 16 of the recommendations already completed and “steady progress” being made on the final five, which are “on track to be completed within a reasonable timeframe”.
However, the report also notes that the tightening of rules around HDC has contributed to overcrowding in prisons, due to fewer prisoners being in the community as part of their sentence.
Justice secretary Humza Yousaf said: “HDC is an important part of the justice system, preparing prisoners for release and enabling monitored reintegration, with most observing their curfew conditions.
“It is not an entitlement, however, and any decision must prioritise public safety.
“I welcome the findings of these reports which show real and demonstrable progress in improving the management of prisoners serving the end of their custodial sentence in the community.
“In particular, Police Scotland and the Scottish Prison Service have worked hard to improve information sharing between justice agencies and to ensure all staff involved in HDC decisions are fully trained and supported.
“The Scottish Government is committed to tightening the law further to protect the public.
“That is why we are legislating to give police new powers of entry and search to apprehend a person unlawfully at large from HDC or temporary release.
“We will continue to work with Police Scotland and SPS to ensure the HDC regime is operating as effectively as possible and that it remains an effective tool in providing structured monitoring on prison release.
“My thoughts remain with the family and friends of Craig McClelland, whose tragic murder led to last year’s review of HDC.”
Scottish Liberal Democrat justice spokesperson Liam McArthur said: “There has clearly been real progress in recognising the need for robust management of HDCs, and these reports show welcome improvements in the communication between Police Scotland and the Scottish Prison Service.
“Fewer people are now unlawfully at large.
“However, almost all applications for HDCs are now rejected and that’s a problem because it has caused the prison population to surge.
“Barlinnie now holds 500 more people than it was designed for.
“This puts the public at greater risk because staff don’t have the time or space to work to rehabilitate people.
“Genuine alternatives to prison and safe routes for leaving it need to be established and invested in.
“Cramming our prisons to the brim will keep nobody safe in the long term.”