Page last updated at 16:44 GMT, Friday, 29 August 2008 17:44 UK

Scots jail numbers at record high

The figures represent a rise of 3% on the previous year.

The number of people in Scotland's prisons rose to an all-time high last year, according to new figures.

The average daily prison population over the past year was 7,376, an increase of 3% on the previous 12 months and 22% over the past decade.

The total number of prisoners passed 8,000 for the first time on Monday. The prison estate is designed for 6,626.

Statistics published by the Scottish Government included an average daily figure of 1,560 remand prisoners.

The new figures continue the upward trend observed during the early 1990s.

For 20 years that before the prison population had fluctuated around the 5,000 mark.

The number of remand prisoners was in line with the previous year, indicating a possible levelling-out after a 60% rise in 10 years.

The average daily total for prisoners recalled from supervision or licences was 614, a rise of 18% on the previous year and a sevenfold increase over the past decade.

The number of female prisoners went up by 5% to an average daily total of 371.

The increase over the past 10 years has been almost 90%.

Young offenders

Sentenced young offenders accounted for 685 of the daily average total, a rise of 6% on the previous year.

Conservative justice spokesman Bill Aitken said: "No doubt the Nationalists will abuse these figures to argue their dangerous case that fewer criminals should be sent to prison.

"That is wrong and against the public interest. Prison numbers will only be properly cut when crime is cut."

But Justice Secretary, Kenny MacAskill, argued: "While crime has fallen in Scotland we continue to lock up more offenders than ever before, indeed we've seen the number of prisoners go over 8,000 for the first time earlier this week.

"This is the absurd situation we inherited.

"We need to punish offenders but also tackle the underlying causes of crime."

Labour's Michael McMahon said the figures showed the Government was "failing" on crime.

"Prisons are bursting at the seams and every community in Scotland lives in fear that serious offenders will be released back onto the streets without serving a full sentence," he said.

The Liberal Democrats called on the government to tackle the "soaring" jail population.

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