HM Chief Inspector of Prisons for Scotland: Annual Report 2018-19

7. Strategic Challenges for the Criminal Justice System

Strategic Challenges for The Criminal Justice System

The criminal justice system in Scotland is facing a number of strategic issues that require a co-ordinated response.

The use and effect of remand 

On 31 March 2019, the number of prisoners on remand awaiting trial had risen from 1,142 last year (15.4% of the prison population) to 1,350 (16.6% of the prison population). This is concerning given many of the people held on remand do not receive a custodial sentence.

We support the Scottish Government’s exploration of ways to reduce the use of remand. In particular, we support the proposals in the recently passed Management of Offenders (Scotland) Bill, to permit greater use of electronic monitoring to allow more alleged offenders to be granted bail whilst they await trial.

One of the national themes that has arisen is the equity of regimes for different groups of prisoners, including remand prisoners. We are concerned about the different levels of access to and engagement in activities available for remand prisoners, who often do not have equity of access to purposeful activity, time out of cell and other beneficial interventions and services.

Our thematic mental health review identified the period of remand as a risk of self-harm or suicide, and this again argues in favour of greater access to the considerable opportunities within Scottish prisons, or a determined approach to reducing the percentage of remand prisoners in custody.

In addition, we noted the impact of remand that places prisoners at risk of losing tenancies and welfare benefits creating greater difficulties when liberated. Many women face additional, more complex needs, such as child custody issues and the care of other dependent relatives.

Women in prison 

Two years ago, we saw the start of the implementation of the Scottish Government’s refreshed strategy for women in prison. The strategy includes plans to build a smaller national prison for those with more complex needs, and a number of Community Custody Units where women will be able to serve their sentence closer to their home and family.

The number of women held in custody on the 31 March 2018 was 380, and there was no change to this figure on 31 March 2019. Given that the new configuration of the female custodial estate will provide only 230 places, much work is still required to reduce the numbers in custody, ahead of the new prison and Community Custody Units being completed in 2020.

Body searching

HMIPS would like the Scottish Government and the SPS to review their policy on routine searching. There is a mass of evidence that suggest that body searching re-traumatises victims, and we would like to see this type of searching being reduced for women and young people to intelligence-led searching only; making use of the existing technology to inhibit contraband. We welcome the approach that has been agreed to reduce body searching for young people.

Appropriate location for children

HMIPS urge the Scottish Government to review the appropriate location for the removal of liberty for children in detention. HMP YOI Polmont has the architecture and staffing appropriate to an adult prison. Best practice in child-centred thinking argues a different approach, nearer to the secure care system.

HMIPS would like the Scottish Government and the SPS to consider a hybrid model of secure care for children, which includes a secure care home jointly managed by the SPS and the authorities, which would include a range of choices for children with challenging behaviour who are currently unable to be managed in the secure system. This could provide the vehicle to remove children from HMP YOI Polmont.

Use of technology 

HMIPS would like to see the SPS move towards a greater use of technology.

Out with Scotland, in-cell telephony has had a demonstrable effect in reducing self-harm; it allows victims to contact family, friends and self-help and advice lines in private and out with normal hours.

HMIPS was delighted to hear the Cabinet Secretary for Justice, Humza Yousaf, announce a trial of in-cell telephony in HMP YOI Polmont. Whilst HMIPS welcomed the use of Samaritans’ mobile telephones for young people and women in HMP YOI Polmont to access during the night and lock-up periods, we believe the introduction of in-cell telephony will prove sufficiently beneficial to be considered for a step and repeat into the wider estate.

The SPS could also consider introducing the Kiosk system, used in HMP Addiewell and HMP Kilmarnock, to the rest of the estate. This would help reduce the transactional workload of residential staff, allowing them to focus more of their time on building supportive relationships with prisoners.

To assist people newly admitted to prison, the SPS could consider obtaining funding for secure televisions with information loops into all reception waiting areas.

We would also like to see greater access to video-link visits for prisoners with families’ further afield.