Scottish Prison Population Statistics, 2020-21

The latest longitudinal statistics on prison populations and flows into and out of prison. Includes information about the demographics of people in prison, the time they spend there, their sentences and offences.

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6 Population Transitions and Out-Flows

This section of the report examines transitions within, and departures from, custody in the reporting year. Quantification of population flows are provided, as well as an examination of custodial ‘journeys’ by legal status. Individuals can enter custody with any one of the legal statuses (untried, convicted awaiting sentence, or sentenced), and may transition through other statuses before departing[35]. For the custodial ‘journeys’ captured in the Cellwise data, it is possible to measure and report overall time in custody, as well as time spent with a remand status. Where available, the reasons for an individuals’ liberation is provided in section 6.4.

6.1 Departures and transitions

[Supplementary Tables C1 & O2]

There were 10,493 departures[36] from prison in 2020-21, a decrease of 29% from 2019-20. Accounting for multiple departures per person, 8,434 individuals departed prison one or more times in 2020-21 – a decrease of 26% (see Figure 21).

Figure 21: Number of departures, and unique individuals departing, fell over 2009-10 to 2020-21
Count of departures and of individuals departing each year from 2009-10 to 2020-21 presented as a line graph. The trend is described in the body of the report

Of all departures[37], 4,489 (43%) were from remand and 5,942 (57%) were sentenced. While the overall volume of departures is considerably lower than in 2019-20 (31% and 27% lower respectively), the proportion of departures from remand and sentenced is broadly similar in both reporting years (45% and 55% respectively in 2019-20).

There were 3,445 transitions from remand to sentenced status in 2020-21, around 31% less than in 2019-20 (4,966)[38].

6.2 Custodial journeys

[Supplementary Tables C1 & O2]

Looking at the detail behind the reduction in departures reported in 6.1, the number of custodial journeys captured in the 2020-21 data reduced across all journey types. Given the 26% overall reduction in departures, Figure 22 provides the proportion of journeys by type to clarify the change in profile of custodial journeys ending in 2020-21 compared with previous years[39].

Figure 22: Departures by Journey Type
Departures  each year from 2009-10 to 2020-21 broken down by legal status journey type. The trend is described in the body of the report

There were increases in the proportion of journeys characterised as Untried only (U__ - 27% to 30%), Untried then Sentenced (U_S – 16% to 18%), and Untried, Convicted Awaiting Sentenced then Sentenced (UAS – 7% to 10%).

CAS-only journeys fell from 13% to 9% as a proportion of departures, and Untried then CAS journeys from 4.7 to 4.2%.

6.3 Time in custody

[Supplementary tables D2]

The mean total duration of an occupancy period in custody increased steadily from 122 days in 2009-10 to 168.8 in 2019-20[40]. This jumped by 47 days in 2020-21 to 216 days on average. This increase appears to have been driven by a rapid reduction in the short occupancy periods which were the norm in previous years, as shown in Figure 23. Continuous periods in custody of up to 6 months comprised 85% of all occupancy periods ending in 2009-10 and 77% in 2019-20, but just 70% in 2020-21.

Figure 23: Banded time in custody at departure
Departures  each year from 2009-10 to 2020-21 broken down by continuous time spent in custody. The trend is described in the body of the report

6.3.1 Time on remand

[Supplementary tables O2]

We can measure time on remand when an individual departs custody without a sentencing warrant in that occupancy period, or when they transition from a remand status to the sentenced population[41].

As shown in Figure 24, between 2019-20 and 2020-21 the median time taken for an individual to depart custody from remand remained approximately the same. The median number of days to departure from remand was 22 days in both reporting years. However, while in 2019-20 90% of remand departures had occurred with 98 days, in 2020-21 this rose to 109 days. This continued an ongoing rising trend in time to departure.

The time taken to transition from a remand status to the sentenced population also increased in 2020-21. The median number of days to transition in 2019-20 was 36, whereas in 2020-21 this rose steeply to 55. In 2019-20, 90% of transitions occurred within 145 days but in 2020-21 this had risen to 175 days. Again this represents a continuation of an already rising trend.

Figure 24: Days on remand by destination – transition to the sentenced population or departure to the community – median and 90 th percentile days
Median time spent on remand and 90th percentile time spent on remand broken down by whether the individual transitions to the sentenced population or is liberated

Previous statistical releases[42] have explored the distribution of days spent on remand for all remand only journeys. In 2020-21, although remand only journeys of all lengths fell in number, the proportion share across duration bands remained broadly similar to 2019-20. The proportion of remand journeys lasting up to 7 days remained at 22% in both reporting years. The proportion of remand journeys lasting more than 140 days rose from 5% in 2019-20 to 7% in 2020-21.

6.4 Liberations

6.4.1 Liberations from remand

[Supplementary tables O4]

As discussed in section 6.1, the volume of transitions and departures from remand fell 31% overall in 2020-21. Reflecting this, the overall volume of recorded liberation types also fell. However this fall was driven entirely by the 52% fall in court or procurator fiscal liberations from 5,832 to 2,811 (a likely reflection of the Covid impacts detailed in section 1.1). By contrast, the number of liberations to bail increased significantly in the first year of the pandemic. In 2019-20, 530 remand departures were liberated to bail, but in 2020-21 this increased almost threefold to 1,548 (Figure 25).

Figure 25: Number of transitions and departures from remand by liberation type
Transitions and departures from 2009-10 to 2020-21 by liberation type. The trend is described in the body of the report

The time to departure varies depending on the type of liberation. Figure 26 shows the median and 90th percentile days on remand by liberation type. The increase in liberations to bail is of particular interest here, with the median time to liberation remaining constant between 2019-20 and 2020-21. However, 10% of those liberated to bail remained in custody for 115 days or more in 2020-21, compared with just 31 days or more in 2019-20. As reported above, in the same period, the time to transition from remand to the sentenced population increased from 36 to 55 days on average.

Figure 26: Days on remand for transitions to the sentenced population and departures by liberation type, median and 90 th percentile
Median time spent on remand and 90th percentile time spent on remand broken down by liberation type. The trend is described in the body of the report

6.4.2 Sentenced liberations

[Supplementary tables O4]

As above, the overall volume of sentenced departures fell in 2020-21. This is reflected in the recorded liberation types[43] for sentenced departures shown in Figure 27 below.

Figure 27: Number of departures from sentenced status by liberation type
Departures  each year from 2009-10 to 2020-21 broken down by liberation type. The trend is described in the body of the report. Notable are the 348 departures liberated under 'COVID-19 early release'

Liberations recorded as ‘sentence served’ fell by 34% in 2020-21, from 6,418 in 2019-20 to 4,240. Liberations to the court or procurator fiscal more than halved, falling from 332 to 120 over the same time period. However, liberations to conditional release (on licence, parole or home detention curfew) rose by a small amount (+5% from 861 in 2019-20 to 906 in 2020-21). There was also an increase in liberations to bail, from 26 in 2019-20 to 71 in 2020-21. This liberation type, associated with remand prisoners, gives further indication of individuals moving from sentenced to remand prior to departure, as discussed in section 7.1.

A new liberation type has been created to capture the early release of eligible short-term sentenced prisoners during 2020-21. Under emergency legislation introduced at the beginning of the Covid pandemic[44], 348 prisoners were released.



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