Prison overcrowding under UN spotlight, as numbers set to soar

The UN Committee against Torture has questioned the Scottish Government about their plans to reduce prison overcrowding.

The Times reports that Scotland’s jail population is set to reach a record high of 8,500 this summer, with an 8% increase in the prison population to 8,200 in the past year alone.

HMP Barlinnie in Glasgow is operating at 140 per cent capacity with more and more prisoners being forced to share cells.

Tom Fox, head of corporate affairs for the SPS, said: “The number of prisoners has recently passed 8,200, the growth has been exceptionally rapid and shows no sign of slowing.” (https://www.scottishlegal.com/article/scotland-s-prison-overcrowding-problem-grows )

This pressing issue was highlighted in the Human Rights Consortium Scotland submission to the Committee against Torture. Alongside very concerning statistics, our submission stated:

‘Prison overcrowding means that prisoners are more likely to be housed at a distance from family, thereby affecting the wellbeing of their children. Overcrowding causes strain on staff, poorer living conditions, and is likely to mean lesser access to education, training and work. Prison overcrowding has a negative impact upon prisoners’ mental health, many of whom already suffer from poor mental health when they arrive in prison . This is of particular concern given the number of suicides in prisons and the young offenders’ institution in recent months.’

You can read our submission here.

The Scottish Government has responded to the UN Committee stating that reducing prison overcrowding is a priority and that new legislation will be introduced to reduce short-term sentences of less than 12 months.