Prisoners turning down chance to cut reoffending

A prison officer checks one of the accommodation rooms at Low Moss. Picture: Ian Rutherford
A prison officer checks one of the accommodation rooms at Low Moss. Picture: Ian Rutherford
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JUST one-third of eligible prisoners are attending a flagship anti-reoffending initiative launched at Scotland’s newest jail.

The Prisoner Support Pathway (PSP), which tackles root issues of offending, such as drugs and alcohol, or mental health issues, both behind bars and after release, has been widely welcomed.

But there are concerns about the small numbers to have taken it up. At present, just 87 prisoners are taking part in the scheme, which is open to about 300 convicted inmates serving less than four years, at HMP Low Moss, in Bishopbriggs.

Although the programme was officially launched yesterday, it has been running since May, during which time 237 people have taken part. At present there are just 134 signed up, including 87 in custody and 47 in the community.

The problem echoes concerns raised by former prisons inspector Brigadier Hugh Monro, who, earlier this year, highlighted that two-thirds of young inmates at Polmont chose to stay in their cells rather than take part in rehabilitation, education or training, despite £65 million being spent upgrading the facilities.

The three-year pilot at Low Moss, which could be expanded if it proves successful, is costing £1.1m, with £418,000 coming from the Scottish Government, and £500,000 from the Big Lottery Fund Scotland.

Graeme Pearson, Scottish Labour’s justice spokesman, said: “It is important that we ensure that those in prison have access to education and the potential to learn new skills so they don’t fall into the trap of re-offending.

“That is why the aims of this initiative have to be welcomed but there are causes for concern on its effectiveness if only a third of prisoners have signed up.

“The Scottish Government must do all that it can to ensure we tackle re-offending in an effective way.”

Chief Superintendent David O’Connor said: “We have got to make contact with offenders when they come into police custody – we cannot wait until they are sent to prison.” Justice secretary Kenny MacAskill said: “The Low Moss partnership is a cutting-edge example of partners working together with their focus on prisoners’ individual needs.”

Martin Cawley, chief executive of Turning Point Scotland, added: “People leaving prison often have nowhere to live, a lack of income to buy food or pay bills, or they have mental health and substance misuse issues they need to address.

“Low Moss PSP staff will support people leaving prison in order to help them access a range of community resources, such as suitable housing, welfare support and medication in advance of being released, which will greatly improve their chances of being able to make a fresh start.”

A spokeswoman for the Scottish Prison Service said: “The Low Moss Prisoner Support Pathway has seen encouragingly high levels of engagement, and we are confident this positive response will continue as the PSP team actively promote the initiative to those prisoners who qualify.”