Prisons in Scotland
There are 16 penal institutions. Greater Glasgow & Clyde currently has two prisons – HMP Barlinnie and HMP Greenock

Prisoners in Scotland
As of February 2011 there were 7781 prisoners in Scotland. Of this total 7025 were male and 756 female.

Prisoners and Health
People in prison have poorer health than the population at large. Many will have had little or no regular contact with health services before coming into prison, and research within prison populations reveals strong evidence of health inequalities and social exclusion.

    The majority of prisoners are young and male. In Scotland males account for around 90% of the prison population.
    Most prisoners are in custody for periods of weeks or months, rather than years.
    It is estimated that at least 80% of prisoners smoke.
    Sixty-six percent of all injecting drug users in the community have been in prison at some time, of whom half had been in prison before they started injecting.
    Prisoners are six times more likely to have been a young father.
    A high percentage of prisoners will have experienced physical or sexual abuse in younger years
    In 2008, black, Asian and minority ethnic (BME) offenders represented 27 per cent of the UK prison population and nine per cent of the general population. 
    Three-quarters of prisoners have at least two diagnosable mental health disorders.
    Two out of four young women and one in four young men in custody report suffering violence at home. 
    Between 20 and 30 per cent of offenders have learning disabilities or difficulties that interfere with their ability to cope with the criminal justice system. 
    The majority of people received into prison test positive for Class A drugs and report alcohol problems. 
    People aged 60 and over are now the fastest growing age group in the prison population.

Links to other inequalities
Scotland's prisoners, like prisoners everywhere, are poor people. It almost invariably follows that the communities which suffer most from crime are the poorest communities, and that the people who are most likely to be victims of crime are poor people. Those who are released from prison will be, almost invariably, released into poverty, inequality and social exclusion. Against this backdrop it is perhaps unsurprising that for many, prison offers respite care from their experiences in the community.

Though female offending rates appear to be rising, the fact that men account for 90% of the prison population must be considered as an issue in its own right. The key messages that are given to young boys around what it means to be a boy or a man appear to be failing significant numbers if this is the result.

Access to primary health care
Access to coordinated health services within prison and on leaving prison can significantly impact the likelihood of reoffending and further imprisonment. Half of those sentenced to custody are not registered with a GP prior to being sent to prison.

The report 'Reducing Reoffending' (2002) by the Social Exclusion Unit highlights the factors associated with reoffending. These include:

  • education 
  • employment 
  • drug and alcohol misuse 
  • mental and physical health 
  • attitudes and self-control 
  • institutionalisation and life skills 
  • housing 
  • financial support and debt 
  • family networks

Prison can exacerbate the factors that affect reoffending. Mental and physical health can deteriorate. A third of prisoners lose their house. Two-thirds lose their job. More than a fifth experience increased financial problems and over two-fifths lose contact with their family.

People serving a year or less make up 60 per cent of those received into prison under sentence. Forty-seven per cent of adults are reconvicted within one year of being released. For those serving sentences of less than 12 months this increases to 66 per cent.

Into the community
Many ex-offenders and offenders suffer from many complicated, interrelated problems and require input from a wide range of agencies. These include housing, addictions, mental health, health and social care, and benefits services. Many prisoners will be in prison for short periods of time. They return to their communities as residents with repeated and often disjointed contact with local agencies.

Around 30 per cent of people released from prison will have nowhere to live. Those with sentences less than 12 months frequently have no planned care management plan and are prone to falling through the ‘gaps’ in care provision.

Key Resources

Scottish Prison Service
World Health Organisation
Offender Health Research Network


Sexual Health Needs of Women in Criminal Justice System
Study of Comparative Health Service Experience Between Prisons & Communities
Prison Health in NHS Greater Glasgow & Clyde (2012)

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