Justice system responses to Covid related public health measures continued to impact the Scottish prison population in 2021-22. The average daily prison population in 2021-22 was 7,504. This was a 2% increase from the average daily population in 2020-21, but the prison population remains at lower levels than pre-pandemic (-8% in 2021-22 compared to average daily population figures for 2019-20).
Unlike in 2020-21, prison population levels remained largely stable across 2021-22. The population increased from 2021-Q2 to just over 7,500 but remained stable thereafter (section 1.1).
While the overall prison population level remained stable across 2021-22, the average daily remand population increased by around 14% (from 1,634 in 2020-21 to 1,862). This growth has continued to shift the balance between the legal statuses (remand and sentenced) in the prison population. On the average day in 2021-22, around 25% of the prison population were held on remand – the largest proportion on remand on record.
The overall increase in the average daily remand population was not spread uniformly across index (alleged) offence groups (section 5). While there were continuing increases in the populations accused of Group 1 Violence (+9% from 911 in 2020-21 to 989), Group 2 Sexual crimes (+23% from 170 in 2020-21 to 209) and Group 5 Crimes against society offences (+34% from 288 in 2020-21 to 386), the population in the other offence groups remained broadly stable between 2020-21 and 2021-22.
Around 60% of the average daily remand population in 2021-22 were accused of index Group 1 (Violence) and 2 (Sexual crimes) offences (-3%pts from 2020-21). A further 21% were accused of Group 5 (Crimes against society) offences, making this the second largest index alleged offence group in the average daily remand population in 2021-22.
While the size of the average daily sentenced population remained broadly stable between 2020-21 and 2021-22 (-1% from 5,658 to 5,597), the index offence profile continued to change (section 1.3). The sentenced population with index offences in Groups 1 (Violence), 2 (Sexual crimes) and 6 (Anti-social offences) increased slightly in 2021-22, driven by increases in common assault (+12% from 483 in 2020-21 to 541), rape and attempted rape (+8% from 668 in 2020-21 to 721), and threatening and abusive behaviour (+12% from 181 in 2020-21 to 204). Over the same period, populations with index offences in the other groups fell slightly or remained stable.
The proportion of the average daily sentenced population with an index offence in Group 1 (Violence) or 2 (Sexual crimes) rose to 65% in 2021-22 (+2%pts from 2020-21).
Population groups serving shorter index sentences (i.e. less than 4 years) fluctuated in size between 2020-21 and 2021-22, but population groups serving longer index sentences (4 years or more) remained broadly stable over the same period. The proportion of the average daily sentenced population serving shorter index sentences remains below pre- pandemic levels (45% in 2021-22 compared to 53% in 2019-20).
The population of women in prison on an average day in 2021-22 continued to fall (-5% from 298 in 2020-21 to 282), while the average daily population of men increased (+3% from 7,037 in 2020-21 to 7,220 - section 2). The fall in the women’s population is driven by a 7% reduction in the sentenced population (from 213 in 2020-21 to 198 in 2021-22). The population of women on remand remained stable between 2020-21 and 2021-22. The combined effect is an increase in the proportion of women on remand on the average day, rising from 28% in 2020-21 to 30% in 2021-22.
The population of young people (under 21) in custody continued to fall overall, from 215 in 2020-21 to 188 in 2021-22 (section 3). This change was a result in a 19% reduction in the sentenced population, while average numbers on remand each day fell only slightly. This led to an increase in the proportion of young people on remand, from 44% in 2020-21 to 48% in 2021-22.
The number of individuals who spent any time in prison remained at a very similar level in 2021-22 compared to 2020-21, increasing by only 1% from 14,241 to 14,411. While there is a longer term downward trend in the numbers of individuals experiencing imprisonment year-on-year, the number of individuals recorded in 2021-22 is considerably below pre- pandemic levels.
The number of individual women who spent any time in prison over the course of the year has halved over the past decade, from 1,720 in 2011-12 to 857 in 2021-22. Over the same period the number of individual men spending any time in prison fell by around a quarter, from 18,815 to 13,552.
Prison Population Flows
There was a 4% increase in arrivals to prison (from 10,261 to 10,678) and a very small reduction in departures (from 10,493 to 10,474) between 2020-21 and 2021-22. Arrivals to untried were slightly lower in 2021-22 than in 2020-21, while arrivals to convicted awaiting sentence and sentenced arrivals increased 16% and 10% respectively. These increases likely represent a degree of recovery in activity across the wider justice system.
Time spent on remand continued to increase between 2020-21 and 2021-22 (section 8.3.1). For those who departed custody from remand, the median duration remained approximately the same (22 days in both reporting years). However, while in 2020-21 90% of remand departures had occurred with 109 days, in 2021-22 this had risen to 139 days. This continues an observed sharp increase from 2017-18, when 90% of remand departures occurred within 63 days.
The time to transition from the remand to the sentenced population also continued to increase in 2021-22. The median number of days to transition was 57 in 2021-22, compared to 55 in 2020-21 and 36 in 2019-20. In 2021-22 there was a substantial increase in the 90th percentile of time on remand before transition. In 2019-20 and 2020- 21, 90% of transitions occurred within 145 days and 175 days respectively. In 2021-22 this had risen such that 90% of transitions occurred within 262 days.
The number of liberations from remand increased by 6% between 2020-21 and 2021-22. This increase was driven by an increase in transitions to the sentenced population and in liberations to the court or procurator fiscal – indicating a degree of recovery in justice system activity over 2021-22. Liberations from remand to bail fell in 2021-22 (from 1,617 in 2020-21 to 1,475) but remained at a higher level than the pre-pandemic period (section 8.4.1). Liberations from the sentenced population decreased by 5% in 2021-22.
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