Hundreds of criminals may get early release as prisons reach “tipping point”

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Two thirds of Scotland’s prisons are now overcrowded and most, if not all are struggling to deal with the amount of drug use by inmates in them.

The startling information will be aired by a BBC Scotland Disclosure programme tonight and will feature a stark, honest interview with the head of the Scottish Prisons Service (SPS), Teresa Medhurst.

Statistics show 10 of the 15 prisons in Scotland are now working at above capacity. This is one of the major reasons why the new HMP Glasgow “super prison” is being built.

This will replace HMP Barlinnie, which is thought to be 42% above capacity. A contributing factor to this could be the rampant drug use within the prison. The NCBI suspects that 22 to 45 percent of inmates are heroin users which may be a contributing reasons to why there is a high reoffending rate.

Angela Cunningham, who is a NHS primary case service manager in Scotland states around 90% of patients from the prison are dealing with substance problems.

Mental health is also a huge concern with the amount of prisoners self-harming increasing by almost 40% in the last year. The SPS believes that “without a doubt” the lack of space and severe overcrowding has played a role in this.

In 2016, an initiative called Talk to me was introduced in the hope it would reduce suicide rates in prisons. However, numbers have increased since then. Teresa Medhurst told the BBC that the SPS are reviewing the initiative based on the latest research.

An issue that the programme dives into is the healthcare provision. Angela Cunningham claims that the strain on the NHS is even greater within the custodial system than in local communities.

The question of negligence was brought in to play when a man named Alan Ingles is interviewed. Alan says his son Callum was the victim of negligence after he died of Covid-19: “I had trust in the prison’s duty of care; I feel like a fool”.

Mr. Ingles says his son had asthma which would cause prominent headaches, however when he contracted Covid-19, the prison only slid headache tablets under his cell door. It is also said that Callum had multiple calls on his emergency alarm ignored.

The only question that remains is, what is the possible solution? Ms Medhurst has said that the system cannot take on another dramatic rise of inmates, so the only solution at the government’s disposal is the early release of more minor offenders.

She continued to say that the situation is so dire that she is concerned how the system will cope this spring and summer.

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