The number of north-east people going to prison in the north-east has fallen by 30% over the past 10 years, according to the latest figures from the Scottish Government.
In 2019/20, 1,001 people from the north-east were sent to prison, this is down 146 (13%) on 2018/19.
Since 2010/11, there has been a drop of around 30% in the number of people being imprisoned in the north-east. In that year 1,435 people were sent to prison.
The figures include those who arrived at prison one or more times.
Across Scotland, Aberdeen ranked 13th out of the 32 regions when the figures taken into account the area’s population. The figures show 2.3 people per 100,000 were imprisoned.
In Aberdeenshire, which is ranked 28th, just one person per 100,000 was sent to prison last year.
Dundee was the worst, providing the highest number of people arrive in prison per head over the past ten years. However the Tayside city has seen a drop of year on year.
The latest data from the Scottish Government also includes a break down of the number of people arriving at the north-east’s super jail, HMP Grampian.
In 2019/20 1,351 people were sent to the prison near Peterhead, with an average of 454 people at the site on any given day. This is broken down to 408 men and 46 women.
This is a drop of 9 people compared to last year, with the number of inmates down 89 on the highest recorded level in 2017/18.
The prison, whose first inmates arrived in March 2014, has a capacity of around 500 inmates.
According to the latest figures HMP Grampian is running at around 91% capacity.
The largest age group at the prison are 30-34, with 266 inmates, followed by 35-59 with 228 inmates.
Over the course of the year seven people aged 16-17 were incarcerated at the site, and 19 people over the age of 65.
In the past year there have been 187 women sent to HMP Grampian, one aged between 16-17 and none over the age of 65.
The national picture
Across the country, despite fewer people being imprisoned, the average daily prison population has risen for a second year in a row.
On average there was more than 8,200 people in prison at any one time in Scotland during 2019/20.
This is a second year in a row this figure has increased, with the rise attributed to the increase in the population of adult men only. The average number of women in prison has remained stable since 2013/14, with the number of young offenders – those under 21 – down.
The average age of inmates has also increased over the last 10 years from 31.8 in 2010/11 to 35.9 in 2019/20, with the proportion of prisoners aged 55 or over doubling over the same period.
The proportion of inmates serving three months or less has fallen over the last decade, from 70% to 58%, with those serving more than one year increasing from 7% to 10%
Responding to the report Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf said: “While sentencing decisions are a matter for the independent judiciary and decisions about release on licence are for the Parole Board for Scotland, these figures indicate that those who commit serious crimes and pose a risk of harm to the public are spending longer in prison than previously.
“Scotland’s prison officers and others working with them play a tremendous role in challenging behaviours in custody and in many cases changing lives for the better, thereby helping to keep our communities safe in the long run.
“However, there is still a large proportion of men and women in custody given very short prison terms for less serious offences. While such decisions are made based on the facts and circumstances before the Sheriff or Judge, we know that people released from a short prison sentence of 12 months or less are reconvicted nearly twice as often than those sentenced to serve community payback orders (CPOs), the most commonly used community sentence.
“That is why the Scottish Government will continue to encourage the use of more effective community interventions, which also allow an appropriate level of supervision, without the disruptive and often counterproductive impacts of imprisonment, such as losing a job to support your family, losing your home or the close and positive contact with loved ones.
“While these figures reflect progress in reducing youth crime over the last decade, they also underline the continued over-representation of people from Scotland’s most disadvantaged communities.
“That is why the solutions for further success lie not just within Scotland’s justice system but across society. Our clear focus on issues which can influence offending behaviour – including through early intervention, prevention and community-based disposals – remains the right one.”
Scottish Conservative shadow justice secretary and north-east MSP Liam Kerr said: “It’s positive to see the number of people in the north-east going to prison falling and highlights Police Scotland’s clear message in the fight against crime is getting through.
“These figures also reflect the great work our prison staff do at HMP Grampian for example.
“This should act as evidence of their work to ensure prisoners spend their time inside meaningfully, helping them give something back to the public while reintegrating with society upon release and reducing the number of reoffending cases.
“But it’s still vital serious offences dictate prison sentences and in order for victims to rebuild their lives, they should feel the justice system has recognised the consequences of what has happened.
“We have seen cases in the north-east of the SNP’s soft-touch approach to the justice system where people are let off for crimes despite victims believing they should be granted a prison sentence.”
Aberdeen South MP Stephen Flynn said: “There are obviously other factors which have contributed to the recent fall so we need to evaluate this over a more sustained time period.
“However, it’s clear that community-based interventions as opposed to short-term sentences have often proved more effective.”