18 November 2004

(S2O-4049) Prisoner Programme Requests

5. Stewart Stevenson (Banff and Buchan) (SNP): To ask the Scottish Executive what proportion of prisoner programme requests cannot be met due to resource constraints. (S2O-4049)

The Minister for Justice (Cathy Jamieson): All prisoner programme requests require to be assessed for suitability on criteria such as level of need, motivation and whether an appropriate point in sentence has been reached. The Scottish Prison Service has advised me that no prisoner programme requests are currently being turned down due to resource constraints and, indeed, that there was a significant increase in sex offender programme places in 2003-04.

Stewart Stevenson: I welcome the implicit news that programmes are increasing in number. However, during a visit to Glenochil prison last week, I received very different information. Only the people with the greatest need and the people who could derive the greatest benefit were able to go on programmes. The majority of prisoners who applied were not able to do so. Will the minister investigate the difference between the information that I have and the answer that she has given and revert to me when she has done so?

Cathy Jamieson: I am always happy to provide further information to members. It is important to recognise that there may well be instances in which prisoners make requests to attend programmes but an assessment is made that the programme is not the correct one to meet their needs or that the timing, at that point in the sentence, is not the best for the prisoner.

The Executive has made available two new prisoner programmes. As I indicated, one programme deals with sex offenders—in particular, adult male prisoners whose sentences are of less than four years. That is a new programme, which was originally developed by Canadian psychologists. Earlier this year, the Scottish Prison Service introduced it into Peterhead, Edinburgh and Barlinnie prisons.

The Executive is also piloting a new violence-prevention programme of some 200 hours in length. The programme is designed for male prisoners for whom there is a high risk of violent reoffending. Again, it was developed by the Correctional Service of Canada and we have introduced it into the SPS.

Those two new programmes show the Executive's commitment to ensuring that the correct types of programme are in place to deal with serious and violent offenders. We will evaluate what works and ensure that that type of programme is rolled out in our prisons.

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