Justice Analytical Services (JAS) Safer Communities and Justice Statistics Monthly Data Report: January 2024 edition

This report contains summary statistics covering a number of important justice and safer communities areas. It is published with up to date statistics every month.

This document is part of a collection

Summary statistics on prisons

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The prison population rose during 2023

In December 2023 (up until the morning of Monday 1st January 2024):

  • the population decreased by 163 to 7,845
  • 2,081 were on remand: 1,776 (23%) untried & 305 (4%) awaiting sentence. 5,764 (73%) were serving a sentence.
  • 66% of arrivals were untried (532 of 807), 17% awaiting sentence (134) and 17% sentenced (141)

While the overall prison population continues to be lower than pre-pandemic levels, there was a sustained increase in 2023 and the number of people held on remand remained at a historic high (see charts below). The reduction in late December is a commonly observed pattern related to the closure of courts over the holiday period.

Chart: Prison populations (total and remand), January 2019 to 1st January 2024

The Friday prison population overall and the remand population up to March 2020. Thereafter, daily population figures are provided. The trends are described in the body text. Last updated January 2024. Next update due February 2024.

Friday population figures published by the Scottish Prison Service, show that the prison population rose from around 7,500 in April 2018 to around 8,300 in November 2019, but fell sharply in the early days of the lockdown in 2020. This was due to a fall in arrivals to custody and the early release of prisoners.

Following a rapid growth in the remand population to September 2020, the prison population stabilised between 7,300 and 7,600 across 2020-22. However, growth across 2023 has led to a higher prison population, reaching a post-pandemic maximum of 7,994 on 31st October 2023. This growth is driven by a rise in both remand and sentenced arrivals to custody. See the Scottish Prison Population Projections for more detail on these changing patterns.

The remand population was at its lowest point of 1,114 on 24th April 2020, but grew to over 2,000 by September 2020. Following a period of relative stability, the remand population has grown further. On 30th May 2023 it peaked at 2,312. People on remand are required by law to be housed separately from sentenced prisoners.

Change in the sentenced prison population varies by sentence length, as shown in the chart below. The populations serving short term overall sentences (less than 4 years) fell substantially and rapidly during 2020, whereas populations serving long term and indeterminate sentences remained at similar levels to pre-pandemic. The population serving life sentences has seen a small and gradual decline since 2020, which continued in 2023. The population serving sentences of less than or equal to one year increased in the first months of 2023; that population has started to fall more recently. The population serving sentences of one to four years increased during 2023. Populations serving overall sentences of more than four years, as well as those serving Orders of Lifelong Restriction, have seen continuous increases over a longer period and now exceed pre-pandemic levels.

Chart: Prison populations by Overall Sentence, 26th Mar 2020 to 1st Jan 2024

The sentenced population broken into overall sentence bands. The highest line to lowest line categories Long: 4 years plus (highest line), Short: less that 4 years, Life, Short: one year or less, Orders of Lifelong Restriction (lowest line). The trends are described in the body text. Last updated January 2024. Next update due February 2024.

Time on Remand to Date

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Among the 2,081 people on remand as of the morning of Monday 1st January 2024 , the median continuous time spent with this status to date was 83 days.

Chart: Banded continuous time on remand to date, % of remand population

The groupings of time on remand to date for people on remand on the morning of the 1st January. The largest proportion – 34% or 711 people - had been there for over 140 days. 26% (547 people) had been on remand for 31 to 90 days. 13% (276 people) for 91 to 140 days. The remaining 547 (26%) had been on remand for 30 days or less. Last updated January 2024. Next update due February 2024.

Note: The remand population includes individuals whose trial has commenced but not concluded, as well as those awaiting commencement of a trial. As a result, the figures referenced above reflect only that an individual has held the same status for an extended period, but do not reflect the relationship between these times on remand and the ongoing court procedure(s) to which they relate.

Remand Arrival Offences

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There were 620 remand arrivals to prison with known offence types in December, awaiting trial or sentence for the following alleged index offences.

Chart: Index offence category on entry of arrivals to remand

The index offences of the 633 arriving to untried and convicted awaiting sentence legal statuses in December. Most common was crimes against public justice (136), followed by common assault (127), serious assault and attempted murder (75), threatening and abusive behaviour (43) and drugs supply (35). Last updated January 2024. Next update due February 2024.

Note: Double-counting may occur where an individual arrives, is absent from prison for one or more nights in the month, and then returns before the end of the period. Where an individual has multiple alleged offence types in a single stint, the offence towards the top of the list in the chart is used as the index offence.


Email: justice_analysts@gov.scot

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