In last year’s Annual Report I set out my priorities for 2012-13. I report on all of these in this Report: firstly, to seek improved treatment and conditions for female offenders; secondly, to facilitate the introduction of Prisoner Visitor Centres and thereby improve family contact; thirdly, to seek improved prisoner access to Purposeful Activity; and fourthly, to encourage better preparation for release for prisoners.
During my appointment as Scotland’s Chief Inspector of Prisons I have formally inspected all prisons (some more than once; Cornton Vale three times) except for Edinburgh (to be inspected September 2013), Inverness (to be inspected February 2014), Aberdeen and Greenock. I have also carried out a number of thematic and other inspections6. I have visited all prisons regularly.
My four-year journey has been very much more than I was expecting. My reference at the start of my work was the report by the Prisons Commission (2008)and this has been a guide for me throughout. More than anything I have learned that it is a privilege to be Chief Inspector of Prisons. Very few other people have the access to prisoners, young offenders, prison staff and Third Sector organisations that I have had. It is a very moving experience to hear of a prisoner’s life, of their family, of their growing up experiences,of their school life and to realise why they have made wrong choices. It can be very much more moving to hear the same story from the family point of view, of the struggle to get to prison for a visit using public transport, of the vacuum in a child’s life without a father or mother. It is also important to see this from the victim’s or victim’s families’ position, of the pain caused by the offender.
Equally, I have greatly valued the connections I have made with Scotland’s Third Sector and other independent organisations whose commitment to improving the lot of vulnerable people continues to be outstanding. I have understood the issues so much more clearly due to the exceptionally helpful connections I have made with organisations, who, despite facing financial difficulties, have continued to deliver essential outcomes to so many vulnerable people. I have been inspired by them all.
All of this has given me a balanced and more comprehensive picture not only of Scotland’s criminal justice system but also of how prisoners are treated.
The realisation that the risks of offending are very much higher in certain postcodes leads to the conclusion that reducing reoffending needs to be focused on such areas if the cycle of reoffending is to be stopped. Perhaps a theme of the past four years has been the significant change that those of us involved in the criminal justice system have witnessed and been part of in order to stop this cycle. There has been a heartening drive not to accept the status quo but to find better ways and means to achieve more satisfactory outcomes.
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