‘The details of what we have found are set out in this paper, but some of the headlines make for grim reading. Prisoners cannot benefit from education or training if they are confined in their cells for long periods, and they inevitably become frustrated, angry or turn to drugs to ease the tedium. We have found that in local prisons 31% of prisoners report being locked in their cells for at least 22 hours a day, rising to 37% at young adult prisons (holding prisoners aged 18–21). We found large numbers of prisoners at some jails who were locked up for more than 22 hours a day, or throughout the working day.’
The above is just a small extract from a damning report by England’s Chief Inspector of Prisons for 2016/2017. The report paints a picture of a service underfunded, understaffed and subject to regular riots mainly triggered by the conditions. Scotland’s prisons have known similar times in the past but according to the Chief Executive of Scotland’s Prisons, the situation here is much improved due to ‘consistent government’ and a fall in the prison population from 8 130 to 7 494 which is of course, still high by European standards. . Here’s an extract of what he said to Holyrood Magazine to explain the differences:
‘Compare that [England] fairly, and I think evidentially, with what’s happening in Scotland, and I think what we’ve benefitted from here…has been a consistent form of government. Some may disagree with that view, but I’ve been running the SPS for approaching six years now and no doubt, I have benefitted from a consistent requirement presentation from the Scottish Government in terms of what prisons should be doing, and that relationship, therefore, builds up over time.…I think we’ve had consistency and clarity of expectation. I think related to that has been, therefore, a consistent approach to the funding.’
He also praises the Scottish Government for its ‘political guts’ in reducing the prison population and in moving the system away from short-term sentences toward community justice and rehabilitation. He describes the former as ‘a complete waste of time, a complete waste of money, and in fact, they cause more damage than good’ and says he is ‘absolutely four square’ behind the Scottish Government.
This, of course echoes what the Nuffield Trust said of the relationship between government and NHS Scotland.