Prisoner numbers rise as crime falls
The annual Prison Statistics and Population Projections Scotland 2011-12 has been published.
The key findings include:
- Prisoner numbers increased by four percent to an annual daily average of 8,178
- Young offenders dropped by eight percent
- The number of prisoners on remand rose by 11 percent
- The female prison population increased by eight percent.
Responding to the statistics, Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill 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.
“We are clear that prison remains the only place for locking up serious and dangerous criminals and keeping them off our streets but we can’t keep packing more and more low level offenders into our jails and giving them free bed and board. Tackling this problem will be a challenge, but this Government has introduced a number of important measures to help reverse this trend.
“Community sentences are proven to be more effective than prison at reducing reoffending. In February last year we introduced Community Payback Orders (CPOs) to give sheriffs the ability to require low level offenders to address the underlying reasons for their offending behaviour and to contribute to communities through unpaid work. This is new legislation and will take time to bed in, but the number of CPOs imposed has been increasing steadily month on month, with 7,138 imposed between February and December 2011.
“For low level offenders, short prison sentences don’t work. That is why we introduced a presumption against sentences of three months or less. The facts speak for themselves - offenders who serve a short prison sentence are reconvicted three times as often as those who receive community service orders.
“Our programme for young people who offend – the Whole System Approach, combining early intervention with tough enforcement when needed – is already working. The number of offence referrals to the Children’s Reporter is down by over 50 percent since 2006-07 and recorded youth crime has fallen dramatically by 28 percent since 2008-09.
“We are investing record levels of funding in the prison estate - £368 million since 2007, £38 million more than the total for the previous seven years. HMP Low Moss opened in March 2012 providing 700 prisoner places, construction has started on HMP Grampian and is due to complete in winter 2013-14 and the second phase of the re-development of HMP Shotts will open in 2012. This will ease overcrowding in the short to medium term but we have always been clear that we can’t build our way out of the problem. The cost of HMP Low Moss was £120 million. This cash could build four secondary schools at a cost of around £30 million each.
“We recognise that the number of women prisoners is continuing to rise and that the needs of female offenders can be complex and wide-ranging. That’s why we have accepted 33 of the 37 recommendations outlined in the Commission on Women Offenders report, with further consideration being given to the remaining four recommendations, and are investing £1 million this financial year to implement the changes.
“Scotland is becoming safer - crime is down, fear of crime is down and the number of people committing crime is down. We are confident that our wide-ranging reforms including Community Payback Orders, the Whole Systems Approach and a presumption against short sentences, will contribute to reducing the prison population and that those who do break the law shall continue to be dealt with appropriately by Scotland’s justice system.”