Report reveals prisoners at record high as crime in Scotland is at lowest since 1975
The annual daily average prison population has risen to 8,178 – up 4 per cent on last year’s figure and above the 7,840 total capacity for Scotland’s jails.
Projections in the Scottish Government figures published yesterday also revealed that by 2020-21, the daily average number of prisoners could reach 9,500 inmates.
More adult prisoners are on remand, up 11 per cent to 1,342 from last year. The figures also showed that more adult inmates were given direct sentences, as opposed to sentences for breach of a previous court order or sentence, with an increase of 4 per cent to 5,332.
There was an 8 per cent increase in the female prison population, taking the number of women in Scotland’s jails to 468.
The sharp rise in Scotland’s prison population came despite the SNP’s controversial policy of promoting non-custodial sentences to cut re-offending and the government’s claim that Scotland has the lowest crime rate since 1975.
Scottish Labour’s justice spokesman, Lewis Macdonald, seized on the new figures to claim that prisoners were being denied access to education and rehabilitation programmes as he warned of further increases in the country’s overcrowded prison estate.
He said: “Scotland’s prison population is at its highest level in 112 years. Recent prison inspections show that prisoners aren’t getting access to education and skills training that are essential for stopping them re-offending and stopping the revolving door in our prisons.
“Unless the SNP sort out what is happening in our prisons, we will continue to imprison more people who, when released, simply go out and commit more crime. We can’t go on like this.”
The overall increase in prisoners follows a slight dip in 2010-11 and represents a return to the rising trend of the past decade.
However, Scotland’s justice secretary, Kenny MacAskill, insisted that non-custodial community payback orders, introduced by the government, and a record level of cash for prison buildings, would “contribute to reducing the prison population”.
He said: “Crime is going down in this country and is now at its lowest level since 1975, yet the number of prisoners has increased by two-thirds over the past two decades.
“These figures confirm what we already know – that without action, the prison population will continue to grow.”
The increase came after Mr MacAskill announced that the Scottish Prison Service is to find alternatives to replace Cornton Vale, Scotland’s only women’s prison.
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