HM Chief Inspector's Annual Report 2016-17

HM Chief Inspector's Annual Report 2016-17

HM Chief Inspector of Prisons for Scotland, David Strang, said:

As Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Prisons for Scotland my role is fundamentally to inspect and monitor the conditions in prison and the treatment of prisoners.  By international comparators, Scotland has much to be proud of.  A common and recurring theme from both inspection and monitoring is that Scottish prisons are maintained in good condition, the staff are generally well motivated, trained and led and, most importantly, the relationships between staff and prisoners are professional and respectful.

However, if prisons are about more than just punishment there is a lot of work to do to ensure that rehabilitation is a core outcome for the criminal justice system. Scottish prisons cannot achieve this on their own and this is where I see the greatest potential for progress.

Despite the development of strategies, policies and frameworks, it is not yet evident that there is the detailed co-ordination between agencies that is required to turn these plans into reality.

It is widely accepted amongst academics and practitioners that to reduce reoffending there must be a focus on the individual person, with the appropriate support and encouragement provided to allow them to develop the skills, knowledge and understanding to return to their community as a productive citizen.

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 6 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.

It is recognised that serving a prison sentence intrinsically increases the challenges for someone when they return to their community. I applaud the Scottish Government for announcing their intention to extend the presumption against short sentences to 12 months.  However, more needs to be done to reduce the number of prisoners being remanded in custody, which can be for several months.  Remand should only be used in serious cases. The number of people held on remand continues to be in excess of 1100 or almost 15% of the total Scottish prison population. The situation for women on remand is greater, with over 21% of women in custody held on remand. The Commission on Women Offenders published in 2012 challenged the government and others to identify alternatives to remand for women offenders.  I would like to see greater progress in this area.

My Annual Report highlights were good progress has been made in this last year.  It also identifies areas where greater focus is required, such as in the provision of healthcare, responding to the needs of older prisoners and ensuring access to purposeful activities for all in custody.

These will be our priorities for inspecting and monitoring in the coming year.