New prison may be built as a result of sentences bill
A NEW prison may be needed to accommodate hundreds of extra inmates as a result of a proposed sentencing overhaul, Scotland's justice minister, Cathy Jamieson, yesterday revealed.
Proposals contained in the Custodial Sentences Bill, currently going through parliament, will increase the prison population by as much as 1,100.
Currently about 7,200 inmates are behind bars and the Scottish Prison Service has predicted that number will exceed 9,000 within a decade before the impact of the sentencing shake-up is taken into account.
The admission comes after The Scotsman revealed last month that a powerful committee of MSPs was warning "at least one more prison" costing up to 160 million was needed as a consequence of scrapping unconditional early release.
The prison population will rise under the proposals because the maximum two-thirds of sentence a prisoner currently serves in jail is being raised to three-quarters. Also, short-term prisoners will now be released on licence, and will be more likely to be returned to prison if they reoffend during a specified period of community supervision.
Two new prisons are already being planned, at Addiewell in West Lothian and on the site of the existing Low Moss prison, near Bishopbriggs, but prison bosses have told MSPs these will be used to deal with existing accommodation shortfalls.
Ms Jamieson yesterday said "new facilities" may be required to be built as a result of the projected increase in the prison population and a need to upgrade the prison estate.
"If we did nothing, the projections are that the prison population may well rise in any event, because of the crime clear-up rate and various other trends.
"We're being very upfront in saying that, given that trend and given the potential implications of this bill, people need to know that if we're serious about reforming the system it comes with these consequences. We do need to look at the increase in capacity, but we also need to look at the shape of the facilities."
"There's the potential for looking imaginatively at sites we have got. However, we also may well have to face up to the fact that some of prison estate won't be fit for purpose in the longer term and there may well be the need for additional facilities."
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