There were 7,576 people locked up in Scottish jails during 2013/2014, according to statistics released by the Scottish Government. Hailed as “good news” by prison authorities, Emergency Lawyers investigates what this means for Scotland.
The recent three-year picture is positive with prison population dropping by 7 percent, with a particularly sharp 18 percent drop amongst young people. However, despite the recent decrease in incarcerations, the prison population is still 14 percent higher than it was a decade ago.
The type of charges people are convicted of has also undergone a significant change with sex crimes and crimes against public justice increasing by 20 percent and 19 percent, respectively
Driving under the influence convictions experienced the biggest reduction with 33 percent fewer people locked up after getting behind the wheel. Part of this fall may be attributed to the new drink drive limit which came into force on 5th December 2014 after a prolonged media campaign.
Speaking of the decline, a spokesperson for the Scottish Prison Service said:
“The biggest decrease has been among young offenders, which has fallen by about a third since 2008 – a very significant decline.
“Other elements of prison population has slowed down a bit, some of that is down to alternative sentencing, some of it is down to policy among other reasons.
“In terms of the number of youths offending, the number in custody is declining as are the number offending, so at some point that will reflect in the prison statistics.
“That’s good news in the long term because young offenders are tomorrow’s adult offenders, so they’re less likely to come through the prison service as adults. We’re just at the stage where might start seeing that effect.”
The report attributes a range of factors as a cause of the declining prison population, including legislative change, shifts in policy and the introduction of the Community Payback Order.
While rates of incarceration in Scotland vary significantly across the country, researchers at Glasgow Caledonian University found a strong correlation between prison populations and postcodes. The majority of prisoners came from the poorest areas, suggesting a definite link between poverty and crime.
Currently, Glasgow City supplies proportionally more of the prison population than any other region of Scotland with an incarceration rate of 333 per 100,000 people. Tayside sits in second place with 204 and Lanarkshire is third with 203.
Northern and Lothian and the Borders brought up the rear of the list with 112 and 128 people incarcerated per 100,000 people, respectively.
In the United Kingdom, Scotland sits in the middle, sandwiched by England and Wales above and Northern Ireland below.
And while Scotland’s prison population fares fairly well when compared with countries around the world, it still lags behind other countries in western Europe.