The overall prison population remained lower than its pre-pandemic peak throughout 2022-23, and fell slightly from the previous financial year. The average daily prison population in 2022-23 was 7,426. This was a 1% decrease from the average daily prison population in 2021-22 (7,506), indicating broad stability in average daily population levels across the two reporting years.
This overall stability masks in-year changes in prison population levels. In 2022-23, the remand population fell slowly but broadly consistently month-on-month. On the other hand, 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 to 5,738 in March).
While the (average daily) remand population fell by 3% in 2022-23, it 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).
The decrease in the (average daily) remand population is not observed equally across all the index (alleged) offence groups. Those accused of index Group 1 (Non-Sexual Crimes of Violence) offences remained the largest group in the (average daily) remand population in 2022-23, comprising 49% overall at 879 (-13 prisoners on the average day from 2021-22). Those accused of index Group 5 (Crimes Against Society) offences remained the second largest group in the (average daily) remand population, overall comprising 21% at 386 (-38 prisoners on the average day from 2021-22).
On the other hand, the (average daily) remand population accused of index Group 2 (Sexual) offences continued its long-term increase, rising by 5% in 2022-23, (+11 prisoners on the average day to 228) and comprising 13% of the overall (average daily) remand population.
The overall (average daily) sentenced population remained at very similar levels in 2021-22 and 2022-23, falling by just 15 prisoners on the average day to 5,583. However, there were changes across the different index offence groups, and these varied in direction and extent.
Those with index offences in Group 1 (Non-sexual Crimes of Violence) remained the largest group in the average daily sentenced population, comprising 45% of the total at 2,530 (-1% from 2021-22). Those with Group 2 (Sexual) index offences continued to grow, comprising 22% of the (average daily) sentenced population in 2022-23 at 1,225 (+10% from 2021-22).
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% to 304 and down 8% to 743 from 2021-22, respectively.
The continuation of these trends 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).
Change also occurred across index sentence groups in 2022-23. While the (average daily) sentenced population serving index sentences of ‘>1 and ≤2 years’ and of ‘>2 and ≤4 years’ decreased from 2021-22 (-10% to 736 and -5% to 690, respectively), those serving index sentences of one year or less increased (+6% to 972). Those serving longer index sentences (‘>4 and <10 years’ and ‘10+ years’) also increased in 2022-23 (+6% to 1,464 and +5% to 285, respectively). The populations serving life and other indeterminate sentences fell by 3% each in 2022-23 (from 953 to 928 and 192 to 187, respectively).
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 sentenced population had index sentences of 4 years or less. In 2022-23 this proportion had fallen to 43%.
The (average daily) population of women remained stable in 2022-23 at 282 (-1 prisoner on the average day from 2021-22). Women comprised just 4% of the average daily prison population in 2022-23.
While the population overall remained stable, this pattern varies by legal status category. The sentenced population of women decreased 5% to 188 between 2021-22 and 2022-23, whereas there were small increases in the untried (+9 prisoners on the average day to 72) and convicted awaiting sentence (+1 prisoners on the average day to 21) populations over the same period. The continuation of this trend has led to further growth in the proportion of women held on remand in 2022-23 (from 29% in 2021-22 to 33%).
The long-term reduction in the (average daily) population of young people (under 21) in custody continued through 2022-23 (-15% from 2021-22 to 159). Young people comprised just 2% of the average daily prison population in 2022-23. Reductions occurred in both the (average daily) sentenced and untried populations of young people between 2021-22 and 2022-23. The reduction was greater in the sentenced population (-20% to 76) than in the untried (-12% to 64), leading to an increase in the proportion of young people in custody held on remand at 50% (+2 percentage points from 2021-22).
The smallest (average daily) population of under 18s in custody to date was recorded in 2022-23, at just 9 on the average day (-5 prisoners on the average day from 2021-22).
The number of individuals who spent any period of time in prison in 2022-23 remained at a very similar level compared to 2021-22, increasing just 1% from 14,411 to 14,528. While there has been small growth in the numbers of individuals experiencing imprisonment in recent reporting years, the number of individuals recorded in each year since 2020-21 remains considerably below pre-pandemic levels.
Prison Population Flows
There were 10,509 arrivals to custody in 2022-23, a decrease of around 2% from 2021-22. The decrease is driven by a fall in arrivals with ‘untried’ status (-2% from from 6,859 in 2021-22 to 6,728 in 2022-23). Convicted awaiting sentence and sentenced arrivals remained broadly stable between 2021-22 and 2022-23. The volume of departures from custody remained at similar levels to 2021-22 at 10,437, a decrease of less than 0.4% from 2021-22. Both arrivals and departures remained considerably below pre-pandemic levels in 2022-23.
Median time on remand before departure remained at 21 days in 2022-23. However, the longest periods spent on remand have been increasing over time. 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 number of liberations from remand to the court or procurator fiscal continued to increase in 2022-23, up 14% to 3,683 from 3,241 in 2021-22. In 2022-23, the volume of transitions from remand continued to exceed liberations to court or procurator fiscal (3,883 and 3,683 respectively). Liberations from remand to bail continued to decrease in 2022-23 (-28% to 999) but the volume of liberations to bail remains higher than in pre-pandemic years (e.g. 528 in 2019-20).
Sentenced liberations to conditional release (on licence, parole or home detention curfew) increased by 14% in 2022-23, from 886 in 2021-22 to 1,006. Liberations recorded as ‘sentence served’ fell by 8% in 2022-23, from 4,175 in 2021-22 to 3,826.
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