Prison throughcare programme remains closed months after temporary suspension
A programme designed to support inmates when leaving prison has not resumed more than a year after it was “temporarily suspended”.
The Scottish Prison Service’s (SPS) throughcare support programme helped around 25 per cent of short-term prisoners with housing, healthcare and benefits until it ended in September 2019.
The decision was taken to suspend the service as staff on secondment to the scheme were required back in their frontline roles as prisoner numbers increased.
At the time, an SPS spokesperson said the service would be relaunched “when it makes operational sense to do so”.
But when asked recently about resuming the services, interim chief executive Teresa Medhurst said in a written answer to parliament the SPS was “committed to exploring what any future throughcare support might look like”.
Lib Dem MSP Liam McArthur said the decision was “completely perverse” and urged the Scottish Government to ensure proper support was in place to prevent reoffending.
He said: “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.”
Several organisations, including Audit Scotland and the Howard League, have previously expressed concern about prisons being over capacity.
The Scottish Government has taken a series of measures designed to reduce that number, including putting in place a presumption against short-term sentences and increased use of electronic tagging.
It has also said it continues to support other throughcare services provided by third sector organisations, while the SPS also works with individuals to prepare for release.
In a written answer, Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf said: “This Government has maintained substantial annual funding to third sector throughcare services across Scotland, and increased investment in these services to £3.7m in 2020-21, which has supported the expansion of the offer of New Routes throughcare service to eligible male prisoners of all ages.
“These services are continuing to work in partnership with the SPS to offer prisoners voluntary throughcare support and are working flexibly to continue to offer support to individuals in the community despite COVID.”