It has been two years since the release of a report calling for a significant reduction in the population of female prisoners in Scotland. The review, led by Dame Elish Angiolini, Scotland’s previous Lord Advocate, is known as the Commission on Women Offenders. Conducted over a period of eight months, the investigation and its report reiterated recommendations made back in the 1990s, however instead of improving, the situation has in fact worsened: since 2000, the number of female prisoners in Scotland has surged by 120%, the Herald reported.
The newspaper cites data compiled by Howard League Scotland, which estimates that the proportion of women within the Scottish prison population rose from 3.5% in 2000 to 5.7% in 2012/2013. However, as the penal reform charity established, the number of offences in fact registered no change during this period.
The most common offences resulting in jail time for women in 2012/2013 were crimes involving dishonesty – for example shoplifting and fraud. Crimes of this type accounted for 37% of all offences. Common assault and breach of the peace were the cause of incarceration in about 29% of cases. Approximately 25% of women were put behind bars for drug offences and 6% ended up in prison because of violent crimes.
The Scottish Prison Service (SPS) says that 423 women are currently held in Scottish prisons, 70 of them on remand. According to research, women are more likely to suffer from mental or drug-related issues whilst incarcerated. In addition, female prisoners are believed to be less of a risk to public safety.