Growing proportion of prisoners are sexual offenders
Supplementary experimental prison population statistics covering the period 2009-10 to 2019-20 have been published by Scotland’s chief statistician.
The data indicate that the overall average daily prison population fluctuated over the 10 years to 2019-20. Between 2009-10 and 2011-12, there was a general rising trend in the prison population. The population fell steadily thereafter but rose steeply between 2017-18 and 2019-20 from around 7,500 to almost 8,200, exceeding the previous peak (8,133) in 2011-12.
While the average daily population has risen, the number of individuals spending time in custody each year fell by around 15 per cent between 2009-10 and 2019-20.
The data show that people serving sentences for sexual offences account for a growing proportion of the average daily prison population, rising from eight per cent of the average sentenced population in 2009-10 to 16 per cent in 2019-20. The average daily population serving sentences for ‘rape and attempted rape’ trebled between 2009-10 and 2019-20, from 213 to 640.
People serving sentences for violent offences consistently made up around one third of the average daily sentenced population between 2009-10 and 2019-20. Since 2009-10, ‘attempted murder and serious assault’ has been the most common violent offence. In 2019-20 the average population serving sentences for ‘attempted murder and serious assault’ rose 10 per cent from 975 to 1,072. Meanwhile, the population serving sentences for drugs offences decreased by 36 per cent between 2009-10 and 2019-20 from 993 to 637.
Between 2009-10 and 2019-20, the average daily population serving a main sentence of up to one year decreased by around 27 per cent. However, the average prison population has risen across all other short and long term sentence groups.
Women were much less likely than men to be serving a custodial sentence for a sexual offence. In 2019-20, only one per cent of the women’s average daily sentenced population were serving a sentence for a sexual offence compared to 17 per cent of the men’s population. A greater proportion of the women’s average daily sentenced population were serving sentences for violent offences (40 per cent compared to 36 per cent of the men’s population) and crimes of dishonesty (17 per cent compared to 9 per cent) in 2019-20.
In 2019-20, similar proportions of the women’s and men’s average daily sentenced populations were serving life sentences, at 16 per cent and 14 per cent respectively. However, no women served a sentence with an Order of Lifelong Restriction in 2019-20.
Overall, women were more likely than men to be serving a short custodial sentence. Only 12 per cent of the women’s average daily sentenced population were serving determinate sentences of more than 4 years in 2019-20, compared to 24 per cent of men.