09:59, November 04 82 0 theguardian.com

2017-11-04 09:59:03
Jails in Scotland less violent than in England and Wales, figures show

Scottish prisons are significantly less violent than jails in England and Wales, with lower rates of inmate aggression, according to statistics released by the Scottish parliament.

Figures compiled by the Scottish Parliament Information Centre revealed that last year there were 73% fewer outbreaks of violence in Scottish jails than in prisons in England and Wales.

For every 1,000 inmates in England and Wales, there were 32 recorded prisoner-on-prisoner attacks and nine directed against prison staff.

Over the same period in Scotland, for every 1,000 inmates there were just 10 recorded instances of prisoners attacking each other and one incident of a violent assault on wardens.

In total, there were 79 serious assaults in Scottish prisons last year, while in England and Wales, prison chiefs logged 3,553.

The release of the report comes amid rising concerns about stretched staffing and overcrowding in prisons.

Last month the president of the Prison Governors Association, Andrea Albutt, said jails in England and Wales were “full to bursting”.

Although the Holyrood administration has made cuts to the prison budget, MSPs pushed funding into alternatives to custody, such as community sentences, to ease pressure on the criminal justice system.

The data, included in a report from the Centre for Justice Innovation, showed that Scotland’s push for alternatives to incarceration had resulted in an 18% rise in community sentences.

George Adam, who sits on Holyrood’s justice committee, said: “With over 70% fewer serious assaults within Scottish prison walls compared to south of the border, prison officers in Scotland deserve praise and recognition for their hard work and dedication to learn from lessons of the past and make our prisons a safer place.”

He also claimed that the overall reduction in crime in Scotland was directly linked to the protection of policing budgets.

“Whereas England and Wales have had their police numbers slashed by 20,000, recorded crime in Scotland, where police numbers have been protected, is at a 43-year low,” he said.

The most up-to date figures for prison population in Scotland show there are currently 7,522 inmates in the country’s 15 prisons. In England and Wales, the figure stands at 85,387 in 123 jails.