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Significant rise in number of female prisoners in Scotland

New figures show that there has been a significant increase in recent years in the number of women in Scottish prisons.

In the last 10 years, the number of female prisoners has almost doubled. There are various opinions on the reasons for such an increase. A study by professors Gill McIvor and Michele Burman, published by the Scottish Centre for Crime and Justice Research, pointed to an increasing likelihood of longer sentences for women being passed down by the Scottish criminal courts. The average custodial sentence had, they averred, increased from 228 days to 271 days, while the average female prison population in Scotland had increased from 210 between 1999-2000 to 413 between 2008-2009.

It appears that an increased use of longer custodial sentences given by judges in Scotland’s criminal courts may be the determining factor. Indeed research from both Glasgow and Stirling universities indicate that there was no evidence that women had been committing more crimes, although there was a slight rise in the numbers of prosecuted crimes of minor assaults and breaches of the peace.

The reason for the supposed harsher sentencing is not immediately obvious. Further investigation into these new findings may be required to consider whether longer prison sentences have been given in cases where alternatives such as community service orders or fines may have been more appropriate, more reasonable or more in line with the interests of justice.

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Saturday, 28 March 2020

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