Call for more work facilities in Scottish prisons

Image caption,
Inmates have been given limited employment opportunities in areas like textiles and timber

More work facilities are needed in Scotland's jails, the Scottish Liberal Democrats have claimed.

The party said increasing employment opportunities for inmates was key to stopping offenders returning to a life of crime upon their release.

The Liberal Democrats said there were just 426 daily work placements for almost 3,500 prisoners last month.

The Scottish government said all convicted prisoners were required to work.

The details were released in a parliamentary answer on 17 November by Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill following questions from Robert Brown.

The answer said the placements offered training at six Scottish jails in subjects such as timber, textiles and engineering.

'Required to work'

Mr Brown, MSP for Glasgow and Liberal Democrat justice spokesman, said: "All the evidence is that work, education and skills are key to getting them back on the straight and narrow. So the availability of work in prison, and the habit of regular activity, is vital."

He said 426 work places for nearly 3,500 prisoners was "just not good enough" and claimed that not all prisons had the right facilities.

Mr Brown said all Scotland's prisoners should have the chance to work and learn qualifications to help them readjust to life on the outside.

He added: "Scottish Prison Service Industries should be rolled out in more prisons.

"It can make valuable products and even turns a profit, which can be re-invested in education and work programmes for prisoners.

"Prison workshops and education services are the best way to stop criminals re-offending when they are released."

But a Scottish government spokesman said work for prisoners also included cleaning and catering to help with running a jail.

The spokesman said: "Vocational opportunities in addition to educational opportunities are key to helping break the cycle of offending.

"But the fact is that all convicted prisoners are required to work - and there is a wider range of opportunities than ever before.

"Some prisons have specialist industrial workshops producing materials for outside clients, others specialise in education and training programmes providing skills qualifications which can be classed as work for this purpose and improve employability.

"Prison work can also include other activities such as cleaning and catering, for example, which assist in running the prison and can provide qualifications and experience to be used outside."

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