Scottish Sentencing Council visit to HMP Greenock and the Risk Management Authority
As part of its commitment to engage with and understand the broader justice system, the Council was delighted to be able to return to visiting justice partners with a visit to HMP Greenock and the Risk Management Authority at the start of December. The Council was able to meet with Scottish Prison Service staff and prisoners while touring the prison, and was given insight into the challenges facing the SPS and the RMA by senior leaders from both organisations.
While attending HMP Greenock, the Council found it particularly valuable to be able to gain an understanding of how the ongoing pandemic has impacted the experiences and opportunities for rehabilitation of current prisoners. The Council was also very interested in hearing about the recent changes in prison population – particularly in the changing make-up of Scotland’s prison population in terms of status (e.g. pre-conviction remand versus post-sentence) and demographics, such as the increasing numbers of older prisoners. The Council also took note of the issues around the challenges matching capacity to demand for the SPS, with some areas of the prison estate seeing record low demand (for example, reductions in the number of young people in custody) but that capacity not being re-deployable to address rising demand elsewhere in the prison system.
The Council was also honoured to be invited to speak with the staff of the Risk Management Authority in Paisley. The work of the RMA, which focuses on protecting the public by ensuring that robust risk assessment and risk management practices are in place to reduce the risk of serious harm posed by violent and sexual offenders, is very relevant to the Council’s current business plan. The Council heard how the operation of Orders for Lifelong Restriction (OLRs) has been managed by the RMA, with a particular focus on how risk is assessed at sentencing, throughout the period of detention and beyond into potential release into the community. The Council was also particularly interested to discuss the RMA’s work on risks associated with non-contact online sexual offenders, which spoke directly to the Council’s ongoing work on the development of a guideline on offences involving indecent images of children. The Council looks forward to exploring this interaction in more depth in the new year when colleagues from the RMA have agreed to speak to the Council’s Sexual Offences committee.
As always, the Council is very grateful to colleagues who took the time out from busy and important jobs to share their knowledge and understanding with Council members.
The Council’s visits were undertaken in line with current Covid-19 restrictions and appropriate precautions were observed throughout.
For more detail on custodial sentences, see the Council’s article on imprisonment at https://www.scottishsentencingcouncil.org.uk/about-sentencing/prison-sentences/
For more detail on what OLRs are and how they work, see the Council’s jargon buster at https://www.scottishsentencingcouncil.org.uk/about-sentencing/jargon-buster/?firstLetter=O and the RMA’s OLR page at https://www.rma.scot/order-for-lifelong-restriction/