Scotland Considers Scrapping Short-Term Jail Sentences

By Noel Scott

Scotland is considering scrapping jail sentences of one year or less to reduce its prison population.

The number of people in Scotland’s jails is “unhelpful and unnecessary,” said David Strang, Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Prisons for Scotland. Scotland has one of the largest prison populations in Western Europe. It houses 142 inmates for every 100,000 citizens.

The current policy, which stopped three-month sentences, was passed in 2010, but it has failed to reduce the prison population, Herald Scotland reported.

The change is urged by a coalition that includes Chief Inspector Strang. It includes dozens of authoritative groups supporting a more liberal approach to sentencing aimed at cutting recidivism and reducing the amount of people behind bars.

Sheriff Frank Crowe, a former prosecutor and ex-director of Judicial Studies, says that a maximum jail term of one year should only be used as a last resort for serious offenses.

Short prison sentences disrupt family life, employment and housing and rarely address the causes of crime, said Lisa Mackinzie of the Howard League for Penal Reform Scotland.

Scotland Justice Secretary Michael Matheson stated he intends to build “the most progressive justice system in Europe.”

Belgium has banned sentences of less than one year, and Germany has suspended sentences of up to 12 months.

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