Information for prisoners on the parole process
117. The consultation asked whether more could be done to help prisoners understand the parole process to help with rehabilitation and avoid reoffending. The consultation also sought views on whether any more could be done to help prisoners understand their licence conditions and the consequences of breaching those.
Question 11: Do you think that prisoners currently receive the information they need to enable them to participate in the parole process?
There were 73 responses to this question, 69 of which expanded on the answer with comments.
"The SPS supports prisoners quite well in this respect. Prisoners have access to solicitors as well and can make their own written and verbal representations."
"I think it could be provided in an easier read and understood format. I work with, what I would think are a majority of prisoners, who have limited understanding because of learning difficulties; learning disabilities; mental health problem; substance misuse issues."
118. There was a mixed response to this question. Around half the respondents believed that prisoners already received the information they require to take part in the parole process. A number of respondents were unclear what information was given to prisoners and some misunderstood the question.
119. There were a few respondents who suggested the prisoner was at a disadvantage due to literacy issues, and information not being expressed adequately or well enough.
120. The timeliness of the sharing of information was questioned with the suggestion that information should be shared earlier in the process, be standardised and explained by someone with expertise.
121. It was suggested that information should be provided in an easy to read format to aid prisoners with limited understanding because of learning difficulties or disabilities, mental health problems and substance misuse issues. The suggestion was also made that prisoners serving long sentences are institutionalised and lack knowledge of digital advances. It was also mentioned that there should be resources provided to those prisoners who have learning disabilities or other challenges such as reading, writing or language barriers, to help them navigate the system.
122. Views were also expressed that prisoners should be kept fully informed throughout the process, highlighting annual Integrated Case Management (ICM) meetings - particularly the pre-release ICM, where it was mentioned that information is available and can be explained, if necessary.
123. Concerns were raised about vulnerable prisoners being able to fully understand the parole process. Also highlighted was the impact a prisoner's incarceration and release could have on partners and children, particularly mentioning bullying and harassment. Timing of release was also raised, mentioning that there should be enough time to allow families to prepare for the prisoner's return, especially where there may be licence conditions preventing the prisoner from relocating to their previous home with the family having to identify alternative accommodation at very short notice.
Question 11 - Next Steps
The Scottish Government will take the following action:
Produce an information booklet, in an easy to read format, to be included in the dossier of information given to the prisoner in timely preparation for their parole hearing.
Ensure that licence conditions are fully explained to prisoners before they are released into the community and that they also understand the consequences of breaching the conditions.
We will consider making appointments under section 21, of the Prisoners and Criminal Proceedings (Scotland) Act 1993, which allows for Parole Advisers to give advice to prisoners or former prisoners, who wish to make representations to the Scottish Ministers or to the Parole Board relating to their release on licence or their recall to prison. In terms of vulnerable prisoners such as those with mental health problems, Parole Advisers with particular experience in that area, could provide valuable input to assist their understanding.
Question 12: Do you think that more could be done to make sure that prisoners understand their licence conditions and the consequences of breaching them?
There were 77 responses to this question, 66 of which expanded on the answer with comments.
"Speak with ex-prisoners who have been through the process to help them fully understand the process."
"As someone who has dealt with people being released on parole, I don't think the majority of them care about conditions of licence. They often agree to these conditions purely to secure release."
124. The majority of the respondents to this question thought that more could be done to help prisoners understand their licence conditions and the consequences of breaching them.
125. A common theme in responses to this question was about communication and the timing of when conditions should be best explained. Another common theme was around literacy and learning difficulties which may prevent some prisoners from understanding their licence conditions. It was suggested there could be a better explanation of the consequences of breaching licence conditions. Some felt that an easy to read guide should be available.
126. Another suggestion was that the Parole Board should confirm the prisoner has understood their licence conditions and should be made aware what those conditions might be at an early opportunity mentioning that some prisoners are not made aware of the conditions until close to release date.
127. One opinion was expressed that the prisoner is too focussed on getting out than absorbing their licence conditions and the understanding of them. It was suggested that these might be better explained at the last ICM meeting.
128. It was also suggested that conditions should be explained on release and then more fully explained at the meeting with the supervising officer on the first day of release.
129. Several respondents however, thought that prisoners already fully understood their licence conditions.
Question 12 - Next Steps
The Scottish Government will take the following action:
Explore with the SPS and the Parole Board a means of ensuring that prisoners fully understand their licence conditions and agree who should be responsible for providing advice and assistance to them. This could be a possible role for Parole Advisers discussed above.
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