More than half of Scottish prisons 'operating above capacity'

As of July 2023, HMP Barlinnie in Glasgow was operating at 140% capacity.

More than half of prisons operating above capacity in Scotland, figures show iStock

More than half of Scotland’s prisons are over capacity, new figures have revealed.

Justice Secretary Angela Constance published statistics which showed 10 out of 17 prisons are holding more inmates than they should.

Constance was responding to a parliamentary question from Liberal Democrat justice spokesman Liam McArthur.

As of July 2023, HMP Barlinnie in Glasgow was operating at 140% capacity, housing 392 more prisoners than it was designed to hold.

The Victorian facility has been earmarked for demolition, with a new prison due to be built nearby and opened in 2026.

In August, Barlinnie governor Michael Stoney said the prison was at risk of “catastrophic failure” due to overcrowding.

Alongside Barlinnie, HMP Inverness, HMP Glenochil, HMP Dumfries, HMP Kilmarnock, HMP Edinburgh, HMP Perth, HMP Addiewell, HMP Low Moss and HMP Greenock are all operating over their intended capacity.

In a further parliamentary question, Constance said almost 1,800 prisoners were housed with another person in a cell designed for single occupancy.

McArthur said: “For years Scottish Liberal Democrats have been highlighting the serious problem of overcrowding across our prison estate.

“On the SNP’s watch, most prisons are now bursting at the seams with people being packed in like sardines.

“Overcrowding puts services at risk, threatens staff safety and makes it far more difficult to successfully rehabilitate people.

“Ministers, however, appear unable or unwilling to respond to the crisis.

“The project to replace Scotland’s largest prison, HMP Barlinnie, has become a farce.

“Earlier estimates, costs and timescales have been abandoned and replaced with a holding statement.

“To ease the mounting pressures on prisons, Scottish Liberal Democrats would create a properly-funded justice system that can deliver robust and credible community sentences where appropriate.

“We also need to see a modern prison estate that can strike a balance between punishing, rehabilitating and supporting; that is how we will reduce reoffending and make communities safer.”

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