URGENT APPEAL – ACTION AGAINST THE COVID-19 CRISIS IN OUR PRISONS.
Everyone in Scotland has been coping with frightening and difficult times during the current coronavirus crisis. With one of the highest rates of imprisonment in Europe, and some of the oldest prisons, it is obvious that the Scottish Prison Service faces a huge challenge in safeguarding prisoners by implementing basic hygiene and social distancing measures.
Howard League Scotland has made it a priority to draw the attention of government to the urgent need to prevent the spread of infection throughout the prison estate and beyond, and to provide prisoners and their families with assurance of their welfare and safety. Prisoners’ and prison officers’ lives are at risk. Four prisoners and one prison officer have sadly died already. With others self-isolating and increasing numbers of the elderly and vulnerable amongst our prison population, more deaths are inevitable.
We wrote to the Justice Secretary as early as 19 March urging him to consider early release of prisoners who did not pose a risk to public safety, and the provision of mobile phones to prisoners to allow family to stay in touch.
Humza Yousaf has responded positively to our proposals, but implementation is limited and slow. The early release of a limited number of prisoners is now imminent, but mobile phones have not yet been made available. Prisoners, prison officers and all those working in prisons, remain at risk. Families remain anxious and uninformed. More needs to be done.
We believe our continued work on these issues is vital. As a small independent Scottish charity, we need your help now more than ever. Please support Howard League Scotland today.
Howard League Scotland will continue to raise awareness of these issues, and monitor progress in the weeks ahead, including:
* pressing for urgent action on mobile phone provision, in line with the Council of Europe’s Statement of Principles on increased alternative methods of contact: https://rm.coe.int/16809cfa4b;
* calling for increased publication of prison-specific data, and wider publication of internal prison communications available to prisoners;
* monitoring the impact of the HMIPS Remote Monitoring Framework, including scrutiny of the forthcoming Liaison Visits Framework, with particular attention being paid to the need for a distinction between solitary confinement and medical isolation;
* monitoring of early release of prisoners, including the impact of the prison governor veto as against maximum capacity for release;
* urging the maximum use of powers to release prisoners on Home Detention Curfew and minimising the detention of prisoners on remand;
* monitoring poor media reporting practices and encouraging positive reporting of efforts to prevent the spread of infection through the prison estate and wider community;
* engaging in dialogue with Scottish Government to ensure vital resourcing of community justice services and third sector partners to provide support for released prisoners and their families to quarantine safely in the community.
Please give what you can – either as a one-off donation or monthly membership subscription to begin a continuing relationship with Howard League Scotland. Please click here to donate today.