I don’t know how those excellent fact-checkers, Ferret, managed to copyright their name when the wee gang of Scottish Lib Dems are such determined wee burrowers into the Scottish Government, digging up fact after fact, snuffling and pouncing on anything they can pass to the NoMedia. Are they on commission BBC Scotland, STV? Both went with the same headline story of stuffed Scottish prisons with no real attempt to provide any useful detail so, I’m guessing Liam McArthur kind of wrote the whole thing for them so that they could enjoy their holidays.
He’d clearly been planning it, since he hit gold, to his wee mind, with the answer to this one he posed on the 10th of December 2018 and got an answer to from Humza on the 8th January 2019. Did it really take five days to write this?
Here’s the question and the answer:
Question S5W-20504: Liam McArthur, Orkney Islands, Scottish Liberal Democrats, Date Lodged: 10/12/2018
To ask the Scottish Government what the (a) occupancy, (b) occupancy rate and (c) capacity has been in each prison in (i) 2017 and (ii) each month in 2018.
Answered by Humza Yousaf (08/01/2019):
I have asked Colin McConnell, Chief Executive of the Scottish Prison Service (SPS), to respond. His response is as follows:
The following tables provide a breakdown of the Average Occupancy, Capacity and Occupancy rate of each Scottish prison in 2017 as well as each month in 2018.
SPS has a responsibility to accommodate those sent to us by the courts. The data shows the occupancy levels of each establishment when measured against design capacity. The design capacity and operational capacity of establishments are different and can change for reasons of policy, maintenance and changing operational requirements.
December 2018 (Average Prison Population 7877) (Data up to 16 December 2018)
|Name||Average Occupancy||Design Capacity||Occupancy Rate|
To get this wee morsel, Liam had to ask lots of other questions which turned out not to be newsworthy for him. Try searching for Liam with a space after it, at:
His name comes up 60 times! How many civil servants is he keeping in work?
Anyhow back to the table above. You’ll see with the detail, that in fact, only 2 out of 15, Barlinnie and Inverness have significant overcrowding and that six have over-capacity. Are those being crowded, kept there because they and their relatives want that proximity to home?
Despite the detailed figures, BBC Scotland and STV gave us those stupid Liam-generated headlines above and comments like:
‘Five prisons out of 15 were at, or beyond, their capacity at the start of 2018 – the figure rose to nine by the end of the year.’ (BBC).
‘The majority of Scotland’s prisons were at or beyond their maximum capacity last month, figures have revealed.’ (STV)
Remind us, what is wrong with a tax-payer-funded service operating at or very near capacity? Had they all spare capacity, we know what the Lib Dem headline would be.
Finally, on a lighter note, Liam’s frantic burrowing and the flights to Edinburgh may be damaging his brain. See this:
Try sleeping now!
I’m all for Freedom of Information. I think it a good and liberal (small l) policy which should help enlighten us all. Root into the dark corners of society which vested interests like so much.
But………I do find it sticks in my craw, when its used for party politics or for lazy, out of context “journalism”. If people are using my tax money for their personal/party/media advancement, then I think they should contribute to the cost of releasing information.
It may be difficult to differentiate between personal information seeking, or those with ulterior motives: newspapers/broadcasters and politicians should be required to justify the public expense of their requests, or be required to pay a set fee.
Even the publishing of a list of people persistently requesting information, and the cost to the public purse of these individuals might give them pause, but I doubt it.
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So, Barlinnie and Inverness, from these figures, could be said to be bursting at the seams? 110% of capacity, meh, could be changes in capacity criteria or other factors over the course of a year. So I think a headline stating [all] Scottish prisons are bursting at the seams, is a bit of a stretch. (See what I did there?)
I have heard a rumour that the police in Inverness can be fairly over-enthusiastic, perhaps gung-Ho, with their arrests, so I wonder if that’s why the prison there is so jam-packed?
Good ideas re FoI requests Gavin. There would maybe be muddy waters if you were to, say, allow charitable organisations free FoIs, but not political parties (are they not classed as charitable in fact?) – and newspapers could perhaps ‘request’ via charities,,, – and then, could you charge the BBC? I’m thinking a list of people and organisations might be more prudent – or limit the number in any one year for each person or group? If you can only have 10 a year, you might think more carefully about what information you really want.
I was what you did but I’ll forgive it this time.
The LibDems have been very busy with their FOI’s over the last few weeks. All slavishly reported in the Herald Trying to prove their still relevant maybe? Perhaps they think there is an election coming up or something and they want people to know they are still around
Yes for such a wee party, they are eager beavers, No, wee rats?
The total planned capacity according to these figures (and my arithmetic) is 7915 and the occupancy at the time the survey was made (my totting notwithstanding) was 7887. Now I am aware that there are different types of prisons for different categories of prisoner, but I think it shows that the hyperbole of ‘bursting at the seams’ is exactly that.
There is a genuine argument which, to be fair, Mr McArthur mentions in his statement, that too many people are being incarcerated, who do not present a risk to the public. However, the Nomedia (and Mr McArthur) intended that the soundbite should be the headline.
Undoubtedly, we need prison reform and we need to invest in the alternatives which are in place here and in other places in the world. Many prisoners have drink and drug problems, many have mental conditions, many have poor educational attainment, all largely due to the dysfunctional families in which they were born, This is not to say that the unhappiness they caused to others should be ignored: victims need some kind of recognition that they have been mistreated and that the perpetrator should ‘receive their just deserts’. But, the recidivism rate for released prisoners is pretty high which indicates that the punishment/retribution approach is inadequate. The factors which result in recidivism need to be tackled. )Mr Jonathan Aitken spoke very knowledgeably about this.) Investing money in such post-release services can reduce recidivism and thereby reduce the very expensive subsequent re-imprisonments.
The SG is trying to deal with sentencing policy, but there is still a degree of public resistance, mainly exaggerated by the nasty attitudes expressed in the media. There are, indeed, many people who have strong feelings about crime, particularly victims and their friends and family, but many others, while sympathetic to victims, are able to take a more nuanced view.