Prison Population

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament on 15th January 2019.

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Photo of Humza Yousaf Humza Yousaf Scottish National Party

Let me in turn thank Liam McArthur for the general tone of his question. I know that he takes the issue seriously.

Around the chamber there is quite a lot of consensus that we do not want the highest imprisonment rate in western Europe—it is not a statistic to be proud of.

There are complex reasons for the rise in the prison population—one relates to the types of offences that we see, for example. There are more and more sexual offences coming to our courts, and more people are being found guilty and going into our prisons. There are a number of reasons for that, which I will not go into. However, the behaviour of the judiciary must also be taken into account. For people who are given long sentences—particularly life sentences—the punishment part is now substantially longer than it was a decade ago. There are also more recent trends. At this morning’s meeting of the Justice Committee, we talked about the changes in home detention curfew. Of course, the less that that is used, the more the prison population rises.

There is a lot that we will do to tackle the issue. If it passes through Parliament—on which I will look to the Liberal Democrats for support—the presumption against short sentences of 12 months or less could be a significant tool to help us to reduce the prison population.