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Increased prison deaths can be a consequence of reducing the number incarcerated.

After an extended headline story drooling over the Lord Provost’s above-board underwear expenses, today, they gave us this:

‘Three men have died in Barlinnie Prison in Glasgow in four days. A fourth prisoner was also found dead over the weekend at Low Moss Prison in East Dunbartonshire. Fatal Accident Inquiries will be held into each death. Holyrood’s Public Audit Committee heard that ten of Scotland’s prisons are overcrowded and that staff sickness levels are up to 50%. All that’s increasing pressure on the service and the Auditor General said it was on the brink of a safety crisis.’

Four men dead in four days is tragic but it is not a trend. We don’t know whether the death rate in 2017/18 (32) will fall or climb in 2018/19 yet (26).

The word ‘crisis’ does not appear at all in the Audit Scotland report. Overcrowding and the word ‘safety’ only occur in the context of prison officer safety and not prisoner deaths. Neither the word ‘death’ nor the words ‘fatality/fatalities’, appear in the report. The word ‘sick’ appears 11 times and we see that absence is around 17 days per year, per officer, is described as ‘very high’ but nowhere do we see mention of a 50% increase.

Click to access aar_1819_scottish_prison_service.pdf

So, there is no reliable connection between the prisoner deaths and overcrowding or staff absence. They’ve made it up.

Perhaps, not surprising, RSD don’t seem to know that as the prison population falls, as it has been for five years now, deaths by suicide actually tend to increase in number.


Footnote: The death rate in Scottish prisons is the same as in England and Wales. See:

SNP Government accused of ‘massacre’ as death rate in Scottish prisons is revealed as the SAME as that in England & Wales

Footnote: Assaults on prison staff are falling:

Have Scottish Lib Dems drawn another blank as they reveal ‘astonishing’ fall in prison staff assaults?

Footnote: Scottish Prison staff are not leaving their jobs. See:

Why are prison officers staying in post in Scotland as they flee the tide of violence and self-harm in England and Wales?