Prisons in Parliament – 5 October

Women offenders discussed in Scotland, and in Northern Ireland, Desistance debated

Stormont discusses Desistance this week.

The benches of Westminster may still be empty, but prisons have been topping the agenda in Scotland and Northern Ireland. Prisons in Parliament brings you up-to-date on the last week of politics and prisons. What’s been said? And by whom? Get it all here. 

In Scotland

More children in Scotland are affected by parental imprisonment than are affected by divorce, and up to 30 per cent of those children will go on to develop mental health problems in their lifetimes.

“It is to our collective shame that the female population of our prisons has doubled in the lifetime of this Parliament—especially as crime rates have fallen.” Kezia Dugdale (Labour)

Women offenders came under scrutiny last week in the Scottish Parliament. Kezia Dugdale (Labour) brought the motion and called upon the Parliament:

  1. To welcome the decision of the Scottish Government to abandon its previously published plans for a large-scale women’s prison
  2. For cross party support of the Angioloni report
  3. For greater funding of community-based alternatives to imprisonment

In context

  1. Plans for £75 m super prison, HMP Inverclyde, were scrapped in January this year. Holyrood’s Justice Secretary Michael Matheson who had been scrutinising the plans said: “It does not fit with my vision of how a modern and progressive country should be addressing female offending… we must be smarter with the choices we make and be more sophisticated in the way in which we deal with female offenders.”
  2. The Angioloni report recommended that female offending should be tackled with small regional units.

In response

Cross party support was pledged for the The Angioloni report‘s recommendations

Michael Matheson (SNP) announced that they would invest an additional £1.5 million in 2015-16 to support community-based provision for women offenders.

Hugh Henry (Labour) called for a greater number of smaller facilities across Scotland with a focus on rehabilitation to break the cycle of offending.

Find the full debate here.

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In Northern Ireland

The question of how best to tackle reoffending was hotly debated last week at Stormont. 

David Ford (Alliance) made a statement on the launch of Supporting Change, a strategic approach to desistance. The strategy seeks to reduce reoffending and emphasises the need for a flexible, person-centred approach to rehabilitation, removing the root causes of offending.

“The most effective way of stopping people from committing crime is by dealing with the issues that lead them into criminal activity” David Ford (Alliance)

Not everybody welcomed Mr Ford’s progressive proposals.

Jim Allister (Traditional Unionist Voice) dismissed the petition as “pandering to convicted criminals” and said it “tramples on the rights of innocent victims”.

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Basil McCrea (UUP) asked what steps were being taken to help those involved with the justice system from a young age:

“What steps would he consider taking to make sure that, once you get involved in the criminal justice system, you are not ultimately on a treadmill that will take you to incarceration?”

Mr Ford acknowledged that children with parents in prison are themselves more likely to spend time behind bars. He drew attention to the work being done at Maghaberry prison as an example that might help break the cycle. Maghaberry allows extended visiting periods, encouraging parents and children to develop healthy relationships during incarceration.

Find the full debate here.



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