McArthur calls for change in approach in face of prison overcrowding

6 Feb 2024
Liam McArthur MSP speaking in the Scottish Parliament

Orkney’s MSP Liam McArthur has today asked the Scottish Government what it will do differently to reverse the increasing trend of prison overcrowding.

Mr McArthur was responding to comments made by the Chief Executive of the Scottish Prison Service Teresa Medhurst, that Scotland has reached a ‘tipping point’ of overcrowding where violence against staff and prisoners, as well as self-harm, become far more likely.

Mr McArthur highlighted that this pressure on the Scottish prison system has been building for many years, and asked the Justice Secretary what she would do differently going forward to bring down prison numbers, which are set to hit 8,500 by this spring.

Speaking in the chamber, Mr McArthur said:

“This has been building for years. The Cabinet Secretary has set out the measures that have already been taken. But in light of these comments from Teresa Medhurst, what does she propose to do differently, and/or in addition, to take pressure off our overcrowded prisons, reduce the risk to staff, prisoners, and indeed to wider communities across Scotland?”

Commenting afterwards, Mr McArthur said:

“Scotland locks up far too many of its citizens already, and the numbers are only increasing. The majority of prisons in Scotland are now beyond their intended capacity, with many prisoners forced to double up in cells that fail to meet international standards on humane treatment.

“Overcrowding like this puts services at risk, threatens staff safety and makes it far more difficult to successfully rehabilitate people. While steps have been taken in recent years, it is clearly not enough. Indeed, there is even evidence that measures such as the presumption against short sentences is having little effect, while the remand populations spirals. All of which goes to show that more of the same is not going to cut it”.