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Last Updated: Wednesday, 1 November 2006, 16:10 GMT
Jail overcrowding 'being tackled'
Prison door
Prisoner numbers have grown by 10% in the past four years
The justice minister has said action is being taken to tackle overcrowding in Scotland's jails after a damning report by the chief inspector of prisons.

Cathy Jamieson said there had been record investment in the prison estate and an expansion of community sentences to help reduce the prison population.

Dr Andrew McLellan said jails were "bursting at the seams".

He suggested the use of amnesties, waiting lists and weekend imprisonment to reduce overcrowding.

In 2004-05 the daily average prison population was 6,779 against a design capacity of 6,396.

In his annual report, Dr McLellan said not enough was being done to tackle overcrowding.

Drugs problem

He highlighted a "striking rise" in the number of prisoners under 21 and the number of women being locked up in 2005-2006.

"Nothing has been more frustrating in the writing of annual reports in 2003, 2004, 2005 and now 2006 than finding new ways to express the damage done to Scotland's prisons by overcrowding," he said.

"Nothing is more illustrative of the powerlessness of the chief inspector of prisons to make any real difference where it matters most."

Overcrowding was worsening the drugs problem in jails and the situation was now so bad that the addition of every new prisoner made conditions worse for others, he said.

"When I was appointed to this office in October 2002, I was told that the plan was to build two new prisons; and that a decision on the future of Peterhead would be made soon, with the possibility that that might lead to a third new prison," he said.

Dr Andrew McLellan
Dr McLellan criticised the imprisonment of minors

"Four years later the position is that no new prisons have been built, that the plan is still to build two new prisons, and that a decision will soon be made on the future of Peterhead."

He cited the most "disappointing" aspect of this year's report as the rise in the number of children in Scotland's prisons, some as young as 14.

Dr McLellan said there were five ways to improve the situation: building more prisons; rethinking sentencing; capping prisoner numbers; reducing reoffending and reducing crime.

He warned that the public must take his suggestions for waiting lists or amnesties seriously, as they were made in the context of the "huge damage" which overcrowding causes.

Ms Jamieson said: "I welcome the chief inspector's report which highlights the continuing challenges for the prison estate, but also recognises real progress made."

The Scottish National Party described the report as a "damning indictment" of the Scottish Executive's "flawed" prison policy.

Conservative leader Annabel Goldie said people in Scotland, particularly victims of crime, would be aghast at the proposal for waiting lists.

Minister and jail governor clash
29 Sep 06 |  Highlands and Islands
Concerns over prison's conditions
11 May 06 |  Glasgow and West
Sentences to 'mean what they say'
23 Jan 06 |  Scotland
Possible rise in inmate numbers
25 Nov 05 |  Scotland
Prison report overcrowding fears
27 Sep 05 |  Scotland
Jamieson considers weekend jails
12 Sep 04 |  Scotland

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