The SNP justice secretary admitted during a private meeting that she wants to empty Scotland’s jails.
The Scottish Conservatives have learned, via Freedom of Information requests, that Angela Constance told the penal reform group Howard League Scotland “the crux of the problem is we need to stop sending more people to prison”.
Minutes from the same meeting reveal that she also claimed to be “exploring a range of actions” in a bid to reduce the prison population, which official figures show rose throughout much of 2023.
Shadow justice secretary Russell Findlay said the behind-closed-doors admission revealed the SNP’s “true intention to empty Scotland’s prisons” and he condemned their “weak justice agenda, which puts criminals first”.
Scottish Conservative shadow justice secretary Russell Findlay MSP said: “This memo reveals the SNP’s real agenda when it comes to criminal justice.
“In public, they claim to be on the side of victims. But in private, they admit their true intention, which is to empty Scotland’s prisons and put criminals back on our streets.
“The justice secretary’s confession behind closed doors will come as no surprise to crime victims or the law-abiding majority of Scots who suffer the impact of the SNP’s pursuit of weak justice, which puts criminals first.”
Angela Constance said in a private meeting with Howard League Scotland we need to stop sending more people to custody. Minutes from the Cabinet Secretary for Justice’s meeting with Howard League Scotland stated: ‘Cabinet Secretary highlighted that the crux of the problem is we need to stop sending more people to custody.’ (Scottish Government FOI, 20 December 2023, available on request).
In the same meeting, Angela Constance said she was ‘exploring a range of options’ regarding the prison population. In the same meeting, it was minuted that the ‘Cabinet Secretary responded that there are range of actions we are doing for prison population and looking at short-, medium- and long-term solutions.’ (Scottish Government FOI, 20 December 2023, available on request).
Scotland’s prison population rose from 7,303 at the start of 2023 to 7,981, but has reduced in recent weeks. On 30 December 2022, Scotland’s prison population stood at 7,303. This increased to a peak of 7,981 on 1 December 2023, although in recent weeks has declined to 7,913 on 15 December 2023. (Scottish prison population, Accessed 21 December 2023, link).