Scotland has ‘much to be proud of’ but more work is needed on rehabilitation of prisoners, HM Chief Inspector of Prisons in Scotland reports
Prison guard - Image credit: PA Images
There is “much to be proud of” but “a lot of work to do” on rehabilitation in Scottish prisons, HM Chief Inspector of Prisons in Scotland (HMCIPS) David Strang has said, as his annual report on the state of Scotland’s jails was published today.
In a statement accompanying the report, Strang said that rehabilitation was a “core outcome” of the criminal justice system, but prisons could not achieve this alone.
He said that despite the development of “strategies, policies and frameworks” for rehabilitation, it was “not yet evident” that the co-ordination between agencies was in place to put those plans into action.
The report raises issues about throughcare support for those leaving custody, and in particular the difficulties of prisoners finding suitable accommodation in the community.
Strang said: “If someone is leaving prison with no place to stay, unsure if they will be able to receive the medical care they need, and with only £58 in their pocket to survive on for six weeks, this can hardly be regarded as offering the level of support and encouragement they need.
“Such a situation would challenge the most resilient, motivated and resourceful of individuals.”
The report also mentions that a “significant number” of prisoners were not able to progress through their sentences because of a lack of space on treatment programmes that would be required to be eligible for parole.
It adds: “Of perhaps greater concern is that prisoners are at risk of being released into the community without having completed treatment programmes designed to reduce future reoffending.”
Concerns are also raised in the report about the number of prisoners on remand, which currently makes up nearly 15 per cent of the overall prison population and over 21 per cent of women in custody.
With the new prison estate from 2020 designed for a maximum a capacity of 230 women, but the number of women prisoners currently “stubbornly stable” at around 350, change will be needed.
“I would like to see greater progress in this area,” Strang commented.
However, Strang highlighted that Scotland had “much to be proud of” in Scotland’s prisons by international comparators.
A “common and recurring theme” from both inspection and independent monitoring has been that Scottish prisons are in good condition, that staff are well motivated, trained and led and “most importantly” the relationships between staff and prisoners are “professional and respectful”.
“I continue to be impressed with the commitment of staff and their ability to care for and protect prisoners, a substantial proportion of whom are vulnerable,” he said.
Responding to the report, Scottish Liberal Democrat justice spokesperson Liam McArthur MSP called for the Scottish Government to provide more resources for throughcare and community disposals.
He said: “HMIPS identifies a number of areas where Scotland is moving in the right direction.
"However, Scotland still has one of the largest prison populations in Europe and reoffending rates are stubbornly high.
“That is why it is so important that the Scottish Government proceeds to extend the presumption against short-term sentences to 12 months and properly resources community sentences which are proven to be far more effective.
“With the right support these have the potential to be gold standard services.”
McArthur added that it was “absolutely intolerable” that people were sleeping rough after their release and in some cases even reoffending just to get a bed.
He said: “Throughcare should now be extended to every single prisoner, giving them support with the likes of housing, employment and healthcare, that starts inside and seamlessly continues after their release."
Last week it was reported that throughcare, which has been trialled in a number of Scottish prison and ensures prisoners have arrangements in place for housing, benefits and medical care before they are released, has successfully cut reoffending.
An independent evaluation found that 78 per cent of prisoners who received throughcare in the past two years had not returned to custody.
In March HMP Kilmarnock was criticised by Strang after a prisoner reoffended in the hope of being caught and given shelter and a bed after becoming homeless on release.