‘Credible and consistent’ alternatives to prison needed in Scotland

Justice secretary Keith Brown outlines plans to reduce the country's prison population.

‘Credible and consistent’ alternatives to prison needed in Scotland iStock
Prison: Justice secretary said community justice alternatives could be improved.

More “credible and consistent” alternatives to prison are needed, according to Scotland’s justice secretary.

Speaking to the justice and social affairs magazine, 1919, Keith Brown gave a clear indication the Scottish Government will seek to significantly reduce the country’s prison population.

But he acknowledged “we’ve got a job on our hands” to improve community justice alternatives.

Brown told the magazine: “I think there’s relatively widespread agreement, and it’s certainly true in the police as well, certainly the police that I’ve spoken to, that for some people prison is not the best place for them.”

Community justice sentences could be effective at reducing reoffending, the justice secretary said.

He continued: “There is a challenge as well, and it’s not a quick one, to make sure that the community justice options are more credible and consistent, so sometimes the courts might be reluctant to go down that road if they don’t think the community justice disposal is sufficient, so we’ve got a job on our hands which we’re looking at just now.

“We’re currently reviewing the community justice strategy, and we want to improve that.”

The Scottish Government is consulting on changing the bail and remand system in order to reduce short periods of imprisonment.

And MSPs have noted that the number of remand prisoners has been growing since the start of the pandemic.

Scottish Conservative justice spokesman, Jamie Greene, questioned Brown’s views on community justice.

He said: “This is rich coming from an SNP justice secretary.

“It is astonishing to hear him talk up community sentencing, when it is his government who have written off over a quarter of a million hours’ worth of community sentences.

“That has been an insult to the victims of crime across Scotland.

“While Keith Brown promotes community sentences, his Government is trying to sneak through proposals to release criminals after they’ve served just a third of their prison sentence. Where’s the justice in that?”