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Prison population fell 10% as pandemic health measures brought in

The report looked at the prison population (Victoria Jones/PA)
The report looked at the prison population (Victoria Jones/PA)

The average daily prison population fell by around 10% last year due to Covid-related public health measures, according to a new report.

Scottish Government data shows the average daily prison population in 2020-21 was 7,337, down from 8,200 the previous year.

The average prison population fell rapidly during the first three months of the pandemic, from around 8,000 in March 2020 to just under 7,000 by June that year.

It then rose and broadly stabilised from September 2020 at around 7,500.

The report said “responses to Covid-related public health measures across the justice system had a substantial impact on Scotland’s prison population in 2020-21”.

During the pandemic, the Lord Advocate issued revised guidelines on the use of police custody and many courts had to close for extended periods or operate at reduced capacity.

Prison officer in prison
The average daily prison population in 2020-21 was 7,337 (PA)

Meanwhile prisons had to ensure sufficient space to allow prisoners to observe public health measures.

While the average daily prison population fell overall in 2020-21, the untried prison population increased by almost 18%, rising from about 1,178 on an average day in 2019-20 to around 1,384 in 2020-21.

However the number of people who had been sentenced or were awaiting sentence was down on the previous year.

The report said: “Combined, these changes have shifted the balance between legal statuses (remand and sentenced) in the prison population.

“In 2020-21, 22% of the prison population were held on remand on an average day – the largest proportion ever recorded.”

The number of women in prison on an average day in 2020-21 fell more than the population of men in the same period.

While the average daily population of men fell 10% between 2019-20 and 2020-21 (from 7,793 to 7,037), the women’s population fell 26% (from 402 to 300).