Scottish Prison Population Statistics: Legal Status, 2019-20

Experimental prison population statistics covering the period 2009-10 to 2019-20, expanding on the previous publication with information about legal statuses, sentences and offences.


An Experimental Statistics Publication by Scottish Government Justice Analytical Services on behalf of the Scottish Prison Service

This statistical release has been designated as experimental statistics. Experimental statistics are official statistics that are newly developed or innovative, and are undergoing evaluation. Part of the aim of this publication is to engage with users to assess the suitability and value of the statistics released. Scottish Government Justice Analytical Services are therefore seeking your feedback on this publication, to improve the product and better support our user base. If you are a user of these statistics, please click the link below to take part in our user questionnaire.

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About Scottish Prison Population Statistics

In July 2020 Scottish Government Justice Analytical Services released new data on the Scottish prison population up to 2019-20[3]. This was the first Scottish Government publication on the prison population since December 2015. Data were provided on annual average population levels, the changing nature of the movements of the prison population and the characteristics of that population over time.

At the the time of that publication it was not possible to provide data relating to the legal statuses, offences and sentences recorded on the Scottish Prison Service management information system. This publication presents these covering the period 2009-10 to 2019-20.

As with the previous statistical release in 2020, this publication was produced by Scottish Government statisticians using administrative data from the Scottish Prison Service (SPS) management information system. These data are collected by prison officers and staff for operational intelligence and logistical support.

It is important to note that the prison population is not static; individuals move in and out of the population every day. Therefore, SPS management information system is live, updating on a daily basis to capture movements (e.g. to/from remand) within the prison population. An extract of data from this system reports on the population at the moment in time the extract is drawn. Like many other operational databases, it was not designed to retain detailed historical data or provide retrospective information to assess how the prison population is changing over time.

Up until 2014, the Scottish Government held and reported on data compiled by combining and linking daily extracts from the live Scottish Prison Service operational database. A number of tables and figures in the previous reports were also based on ‘snapshots’ (single extracts from the prisoner records system).

However, due to technological changes in 2014, , it is has been no longer possible to produce these data. The dataset used in this pubication has been created using the the information that still exists about the times when prisoners occupied specific cells. Hence the population spine underlying this publication is termed “Cellwise”, or the Cellwise data. More detail on how these data are constructed is provided in section 5.3.

The construction of the data is fundamentally different, both to the previous data design and to the aggregation produced by SPS in the interim and thereforeit has not been possible to align these results exactly with previous publications, or to confirm their comparability with statistics from other jurisdictions. Figure 35 shows that trends and approximate levels are sufficiently aligned for meaningful interpretation of high level prison population trends. Uncertainties in certain metrics will be highlighted throughout this report, and are collated in section 5.

Producing and analysing data, and publishing information, on the Scottish prison population is an ongoing development project between Scottish Government Justice Analytical Services and the Scottish Prison Service. Our intention is that user feedback on the information released to date will inform this work and how it progresses.



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