Page last updated at 15:23 GMT, Tuesday, 26 August 2008 16:23 UK

Jail population hits record high

Scotland's jails are now running well above capacity

Scotland's prison population has risen by a third in 10 years, to reach more than 8,000 for the first time.

The Scottish Prison Service said 8,013 people were in custody on Monday night, with 371 on home detention curfew.

The country's prisons are designed to hold about 6,600 inmates and had a daily average of about 6,000 in 1998.

Earlier this year the chief inspector of prisons warned that overcrowding in Scotland's jails was making the country less safe.

In April, Dr Andrew McLellan told BBC Scotland that those jailed for six months or less did not receive any rehabilitation and were more likely to reoffend.

It was warned at the time that the system could not work properly on dangerous offenders if prisons were "full to the gunnels".

Commenting on the rise about 8,000 inmates, Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill said: "While crime has fallen in Scotland we continue to lock up more offenders than ever before. This is the absurd situation we inherited."

The minister said record investment to deliver three new prisons was under way along with measures to tackle Scotland's "booze and blades" culture.

"We need to lock up those who are a danger to our communities and who commit serious offences," he added.

"Less serious offences need to be dealt with by tough community punishments.

"These offenders should pay back the damage they've done in their community through the sweat of their brow, not have the damage they've caused to their community compounded by us having to pay for their free bed and board."

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