Lock em up and throw away the remote.

Dr Andrew McLellan, our <a data-cke-saved-href="http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Topics/Justice/Prisons/17208" href="http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Topics/Justice/Prisons/17208" _blank"="">Chief Inspector of Prisons, is by all accounts a decent, humane and intelligent man. His job is to monitor the situation in Scotlands prisons, report on conditions and highlight any concerns that a decent, humane and intelligent observer would have. Im glad I live in a society where we have such things there are too many countries where it is down to watchdogs like Amnesty to do whatever monitoring we can.

Launching his annual report recently, Dr McLellan pointed out that overcrowding means that our prison system, which aspires to reform and rehabilitation, is simply struggling to achieve containment on a day to day basis. On 26th October 2007, the prison population in Scotland was 7297 against a prison capacity of 6845. The projection for 2014 is that there will be around 7900 people in Scottish prisons.

The result is that, rather than being provided with useful jobs and training, prisoners are left to lie in bed watching Lorraine Kelly on daytime tv. Eek.

Rather than protest at the horrors imposed on the vulnerable in our society (a case of inhumane treatment if ever there was one), the public outcry was a familiar refrain over soft treatment and cushy life on the inside. Is an afternoon in front of the telly really such a privileged existence?

And how come our jails are overcrowded when crime levels are actually falling? I recently attended the inaugural meeting of the Scottish Parliaments Cross Party Group on Human Rights, where John Scott of the Howard League for Penal Reform suggested that the pressure to avoid being seen to be soft on crime means that judges are increasingly handing down longer sentences for similar crimes.

John Scott quoted a previous Home Secretary who described prison as an expensive way of making bad people worse, disputing only the suggestion that all those sent to prison are somehow bad. Instead, he suggests, many are just vulnerable, with drugs, alcohol or mental health problems (or a combination of them). This society, then, uses prison as a skip, bundling vulnerable people because we dont know what else to do with them.

So until we can find other ways of dealing with vulnerable people we will continue to have overflowing prisons.

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Our blogs are written by Amnesty International staff, volunteers and other interested individuals, to encourage debate around human rights issues. They do not necessarily represent the views of Amnesty International.
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