– in the Scottish Parliament on 23rd January 2019.
6. To ask the Scottish Government whether Her Majesty’s Prison Inverness exceeded prisoner capacity in 2018. (S5O-02804)
It did. The average population during 2018 was 113 people, which is an average occupancy level of just over 120 per cent. As the member no doubt knows, HMP Inverness is a small local prison that manages the requirements of the courts across a vast geographical area. The Scottish Prison Service supports positive relationships by, wherever possible, accommodating people in the prison that is closest to their home, and that has contributed to that occupancy level.
When prisons exceed their capacity, two areas that suffer are rehabilitation and safety. Will the cabinet secretary confirm that enough resources are being directed at providing sufficient warders and rehabilitation support to prisoners in Inverness? Will he also tell us when the new prison in Inverness will be ready for use?
Edward Mountain makes a very important point. None of us wants to see overoccupancy in any of our prisons—indeed, I answered a question last week on this issue from, I think, Liam McArthur. The fact that we have one of the highest prison populations—if not, by some measures, the highest—is to our great shame and not something to be proud of at all.
The member is absolutely right to say that such a situation potentially has a detrimental effect on rehabilitation. I know that the SPS is very aware of that and will work hard on continuing to fund rehabilitation programmes and looking at alternatives to custody. I know that his colleagues in the United Kingdom Government recognise this, but I say genuinely to the member that short sentences do not have the same impact on rehabilitating those who commit crimes as community disposals do. As a result, I would appreciate it if, when we come forward with plans to introduce a presumption against short sentences of 12 months, he and his party would look at them with genuine open-mindedness.
As for the replacement for HMP Inverness, I will send the member some details on that. It is included in the Government’s infrastructure planning, but it is fair to say that at the moment the priorities are the female custodial estate, a replacement for Barlinnie and then a replacement for HMP Inverness.