Crucial prison service suspended

Scottish prisons "unsustainable" as crucial service is suspended 

25th July 2019 by Robert Armour 0 Comments

A leading charity has criticised the Scottish Prison Service for suspending a scheme supporting inmates.

From September SPS has suspended its Throughcare service with the prison officers on secondment to the scheme sent back to former roles.

However the Howard League Scotland said the move showed that Scottish prisons couldn’t cope with the "unsustainable" number of prisoners and that the increasing population "signals an urgent need for significant policy change."

Rolled out across most Scottish prisons in 2015, the scheme paired prisoners up with a Throughcare support officer (TSO) who helped them make arrangements for housing, medical provision and benefits on the outside.

TSOs continued to give guidance to those released from custody and was viewed as an important scheme to stop reoffending.

SPS said the scheme will relaunch when it makes "operational sense.”

A statement by the Howard League Scotland said: “The news that SPS is to reassign Throughcare Support Officers to Prison Officer roles highlights the severity of the situation.

“It paints a picture of a service that is being forced to concentrate on internal day to day operational issues at the expense of managing the effective transition of prisoners back into their local communities.”

It added: “Given the high proportion of prisoners currently awaiting trial or sentence, too – now some 20%, according to the latest figures – the limited use of alternatives to remand, such as supervised bail, remains a cause for concern.”

Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf said the matter rested with SPS. But added: "We cannot continue with an increasing prison population.

"It puts real strain on our prison service. I understand the reason why SPS has taken those Throughcare support officers and put them back on to frontline duties - because we have a prison population that is the highest in western Europe.

"That is not an acceptable position. It's disappointing that this decision has had to be made but I completely understand why SPS would have to make that decision. It's not an easy environment to be working in."

Forty-one TSOs and three Throughcare managers will return to working within prisons over the summer.

About 25% of short-term prisoners had engaged with the Throughcare service. Others were served by partner agencies.