Alison McInnes: SNP has dropped the ball on crime

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We are fortunate to live at a time when crime is falling across Edinburgh, Scotland and, indeed, most of the western world.

So it has been disappointing to discover that the opportunity to make this drop in crime permanent has been put at risk. The Scottish Government has taken its eye off the ball on an important part of our justice system.

If we are to cut crime permanently then we need to make sure that offenders coming out of prisons for crimes committed in the past get the help they need to turn away from a future life of crime after release. But new figures that I have published show that almost 1000 inmates in Scottish prisons cannot get on a rehabilitation programme and will have to go on waiting lists for programmes designed to reduce reoffending.

My requests for information from the Scottish Prison service show that, as of this March, 956 individuals in prisons across Scotland were on waiting lists for offending behaviour-related programmes. In Edinburgh the number was 165. At Glenochil prison, 265. At Shotts prison 213 prisoners were on waiting lists.

These support programmes help offenders address drug abuse, violent behaviour and control emotions. These are all things that will help them avoid slipping back into crime in the future. In recent years we have seen our prison service struggle to provide prisoners with mental health support and increase the inappropriate use of solitary confinement.

Now we learn that almost 1000 inmates across the prison system have been pushed onto waiting lists for rehabilitation programmes that help reduce the chances of reoffending. It is clear that SNP ministers have dropped the ball.

It is right that people convicted of serious crimes should face prison time.

But if we are to reduce crime and reoffending, ministers need to look beyond just punitive action and ensure that rehabilitation is one of the central aims of our prison service.

The fact that almost 1000 
inmates have been let down on rehabilitation suggests that the SNP government is guilty of failing to give prison service staff the support they need.

• Alison McInnes is justice spokesperson for the Scottish Liberal Democrats