‘Unacceptable’ decline of purposeful activity in prison continues

The steady decline of purposeful activity in Scotland’s prisons has continued in 2017-18, a trend branded ‘unacceptable’ by the Scottish Conservatives.
The latest figures from the Scottish Prison Service show that the number of hours of work and education carried out by Scotland’s prisoners dropped by nearly 300,000 in 2017-18, the lowest number since 2010/11.
Average hours of activity per week per prisoner has also fallen since 2016, to 21, the joint-lowest level since the measure was first introduced in 2011-12.
Worryingly, despite previous increases in the number of vocational qualifications completed in prison, this has now fallen by over 7 percent – from 20,311 in 2016-17 to 18,793 in 2018-19.
All three measures are key performance indicators which directly impact the ability of the prison service to rehabilitate offenders.
The Scottish Conservatives are clear that these declines would do nothing to tackle Scotland’s shocking reoffending rate, which is the highest in the UK.
Scottish Conservative shadow justice secretary Liam Kerr said:
“This continuing decline in work and education in Scotland’s prisons is totally unacceptable.
“Evidence shows that meaningful activity in prison is crucial for prisoner rehabilitation and reintegration into society upon release.
“Therefore, every prisoner should be compelled to either work or take part in some kind of meaningful activity while they’re in jail.
“The SNP is rushing headlong to impose a presumption against short term sentences in order to empty our jails.
“Instead of putting dangerous criminals straight back into society, it would be more constructive to take the opportunity presented by incarceration to give prisoners a genuine opportunity to rehabilitate, retrain, re-educate and requalify.
“Without these basic opportunities, it is no wonder Scotland’s reoffending rate is both the highest in the UK and stubbornly refuses to reduce.
“If the SNP are serious about cutting Scotland’s stagnant reoffending rate, they must ensure every inmate is using their time in prison productively, in particular, where it is possible, to work or learn.”