Scottish Prison Population Projections: February 2024 Edition

This report presents short-term Scottish prison population projections for the six month period from January to June 2024. They have been produced using ‘microsimulation’ scenario modelling which simulates prison arrivals and departures, and estimates the number of individuals in prison.

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6 Conclusions

The modelling indicates a projected range of between 7,350 and 8,450 for the average daily total prison population in June 2024. As at 5th February 2024, the prison population was around 7,900.

In the first publication of June 2023, only low, central and high court throughput scenarios were reported. Since the November publication, six additional scenarios have been introduced[29], which feature varying remand arrivals (low, central and high) combined with court throughput variations (also low, central and high). Over the course of the next few months remand arrivals, sentenced arrivals and case conclusion levels will be monitored to assess with which scenarios the actual prison population numbers are most closely aligned.

For several reasons, modelling the future prison population using the microsimulation becomes less accurate the further ahead it is projected (whether due to systematic errors in the model, inaccurate assumptions due to unforeseen circumstances, or due to changed circumstances that the model is not built to account for). Experience to date suggests that a maximum projection period of six month allows for reliable projections.

As previously highlighted, the key factors impacting changes in the prison population in the short term will be the flows into and out of the remand and sentenced populations. This is influenced by the court recovery programme, for example the resource re-allocation from summary to solemn which took place in April 2023 - it is assumed in the projections that the number of court rooms allocated to summary and solemn procedure will remain consistent until at least June 2024. SCTS reporting has indicated that recent elevated levels of summary demand has meant that the level of outstanding summary trials has stabilised rather than continuing to fall[30].



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