Scottish Prison Population Statistics 2022-23

An Official Statistics Publication for Scotland

The Scottish prison population continued to be impacted by justice system responses to Covid-related public health measures in 2022-23, according to statistics published by the Chief Statistician today.

The statistics show that the average daily prison population remained stable at a reduced level for a third consecutive year in 2022-23, decreasing by just 1% from 7,506 in 2021-22 to 7,426.  The average daily prison population in 2022-23 was around 9% lower than in 2019-20 when it was 8,197.  However, it should be noted, that the prison population has risen sharply from January 2023.  This increase is only partially captured in these statistics (as they cover the period 1st April 2022 to 31st March 2023).  

The overall average figures mask in-year changes in the prison population.  In 2022-23, the sentenced population rose slowly between the second and fourth quarters of 2022 before increasing rapidly in the first quarter of 2023 (from an average of 5,562 in January 2023 to 5,738 in March 2023). 

Those with index offences in Group 1 (Non-sexual Crimes of Violence) remained the largest group in the average daily sentenced population in 2022-23, comprising 45% of the total at 2,530 (-1% from 2021-22).  Those with Group 2 (Sexual) index offences continued to grow (+10% from 2021-22 to 1,225), and comprised 22% of the average daily sentenced population in 2022-23. 

The average daily sentenced populations with index offences in Group 3 (Dishonesty) and Group 5 (Crimes against society) continued to fall in 2022-23 – down 12% from 2021-22 to 304 and down 8% to 743, respectively. 

The continuation of changes in index offence profile in 2022-23 has led to an average daily sentenced population increasingly comprised of those convicted of index violent and sexual offences. Those with index offences in Groups 1 (Violence) and 2 (Sexual) comprised 67% of the sentenced population in 2022-23 (+2 percentage points from 2021-22).

The share of the average daily sentenced population serving shorter index sentences remained below pre-pandemic levels in 2022-23. In 2019-20, 53% of the average daily sentenced population had index sentences of four years or less.  In 2022-23 this proportion had fallen to 43%.

The average daily remand population fell by 3% in 2022-23, but remained high at 1,804.  The proportion of the average daily prison population held on remand in 2022-23 was 24% (-1% from 2021-22 and the second highest annual rate to date). Those who were untried comprised the majority of the average daily remand population in 2022-23 (around 84%, the same proportion as in 2021-22).  The remaining 16% were, on the average day in both reporting years, held as ‘convicted awaiting sentence’.

While median time on remand before departure remained at 21 days in 2022-23, the longest periods spent on remand continued to increase.  In 2017-18, 90% of remand departures had occurred within 63 days, with the longest 10% of stays before departure taking 64 days or more.  By 2022-23, the longest 10% of stays before departure from remand took 146 days or more.

For those transitioning from remand to the sentenced population, the median time on remand fell slightly (from 55 to 54 days).  However, for the 10% staying longest before transitioning, time on remand continued to increase.  In 2019-20, 90% of transitions occurred within 145 days, with the longest 10% of stays before transition taking 146 days or more.  By 2022-23 the longest 10% of stays before transitioning from remand took 289 days or more.


The full statistical publication can be accessed at:

The publication covers the period 1 April 2022 to 31 March 2023. Monthly prison population management information data covering the period from 1st April 2023 to 1st November 2023 are published here:  These monthly data reports highlight ongoing rises in prison population levels and changes in prison population composition.

Compliance with public health measures during the pandemic influenced operations across the criminal justice system. Impacts over the period 2020-23 have included: a decreased volume of custody cases reported to the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service, and an increased volume of undertakings reports; a reduced likelihood of an accused being remanded; reduced court capacity, with subsequent reduction in concluded cases, custodial sentences issued and a growth in the trial backlog; and an agreement in the initial stages of the pandemic response to early release of eligible short term sentenced prisoners. Combined, these shifts impacted both the in-flows to custody and the out-flows from custody.

For more on these trends see: Criminal Proceedings in Scotland, Journey Times in the Scottish Criminal Justice System, Criminal Court Disposals Dashboard, Coronavirus (COVID-19) Justice Analytical Services Data Report, Sheriff Courts – Remand and Bail Outcomes: Occasional Paper


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