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Scottish Prisons Face Greater Scrutiny After Parliament Approves New System

The Scottish Parliament have approved a reform of the system, which scrutinises Scottish prisons, in order to improve the way prisons are monitored.

Michael Matheson, Justice Secretary, explained: “The previous system for monitoring Scotland’s prisons was not as effective as it could be. There was a lack of accountability and significant inconsistencies in the way in which individual visiting committees worked”.

“Action needed to be taken to address some of the problems identified with the previous regime and we’ve done just that. A new improved system for monitoring Scotland’s prisons will now mean greater scrutiny of prisons right across the country”, he continued.

The reforms will establish a new monitoring service, which will improve scrutiny across the board. The new system will also ensure that improvements to prison conditions and the treatment of prisoners can be implemented more effectively.

What’s more, the plans will make sure the provisions under the UN Convention Against Torture (OPCAT) and the National Preventative Mechanism (NPM) – both to which the Scottish Government have strict obligations – will be met. Finally, the reforms will mean Independent Prison Monitors the power to visit prisons without the requirement to give notice; access all areas of the prison; privately speak to any prisoner it sees fit; and investigate any matter brought to their attention.

Mr Matheson added: “Independent Prison Monitors, as representatives of civic society, will have the right to visit any prison, any time, without prior notice, access any part of a prison and speak to any prisoner privately about any issue. They will also have the power to investigate any matter a prisoner brings to them”

The previous regime of prison visiting committees was not compliant with OPCAT. It is hoped that the reforms will be robust and professional, resulting in a more coordinated approach to prison monitoring in Scotland. In turn, this will create the best environment for prisoners, which is the best outcome for them and the wider community.

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