The Scottish Government ran a consultation in Sept/Oct 2017 on reform of parole. Download SPARC’s response. Among other points, it draws attention to the drastically declining rate of parole release and the increasing rate of parole recalls in Scotland. Did you know that in 1994 nearly one-third of lifers considered for parole received it, but by 2015-16 barely more than 1 in 10 did? Or that the rate of recalling people from parole increased 800% between 1997-98 and 2013-14? Parole is working to keep people in prison for longer and longer periods, in the absence of evidence that prisoners today are worse than those in the past. Instead a system meant to support people’s release to allow for community and family reintegration is doing the opposite. Is a risk paradigm making us safer or encouraging over confinement?

Declining Chances of Parole: Parole Release Recommendations by Sentence Type
The table below shows how sharply use of parole has declined over the past two decades. In 1993/94 prisoners on determinate sentences had a better than 50% chance of earning parole; by 2015/16, they had barely more than a 25% chance. This data comes fromthe Parole Board for Scotland’s own annual reports.

1994 2003 2010 2015-16
Determinate Sentence
  considered for parole 692 766 483 480
  release recommended 368 345 124 125
  release rate 53% 45% 26% 26%
Life Sentence
  considered for parole 119 212 263 366
  release recommended 34 55 48 44
  release rate 29% 26% 18% 12%

Parole Recalls as a Percentage of Total Parole Caseload 2005/6 to 2013/14 [TABLE CORRECTION – written parole response missed out a line of data]: The two tables below combine statistics from Criminal Justice Social Work and Prison Populations to compare the reported parole caseload in a year with the number of people recalled from parole to prison in the same year (receptions). The data should be read very cautiously, and this offers only a rough guide, as receptions are a proxy but not a perfect guide to numbers of people entering prison (one person may be received multiple times in a year) and reporting periods between agencies differ slightly. However, it is remarkable in itself to note the general trend showing that in the mid-2000s the number of parole recalls amounted to less than one-third of the total parole population in the community, but by 2013/14, parole recalls amounted to half of the total parole caseload. ADP means the average daily population of people in prison, and this shows that by 2013/14, the number of people in prison for a parole recall was equivalent to three-quarters of the total caseload of parolees in the community.

2005/06 2006/07 2007/08 2008/09
CJSW  Parole Caseload 1325 1192 1103 1047
Parole Recalls ADP 397 515 611 600
Parole Recalls Receptions 347 467 412 421
Recalls as % Caseload (Receptions) 26% 39% 37% 40%
Recalls as % Caseload (ADP) 30% 43% 55% 57%
2009/10 2010/11 2011/12 2012/13 2013/14
CJSW  Parole Caseload 984 875 917 921 949
Parole Recalls ADP 622 682 702 713 693
Parole Recalls Receptions 440 520 491 453 472
Recalls as % Caseload (Receptions) 45% 59% 54% 49% 50%
Recalls as % Caseload (ADP) 63% 78% 77% 77% 73%

Rising Parole Recall

In the 1990s parole recall hardly existed. Latest figures show huge increases in the number of people recalled to prison and the number of people in prison for parole recall. This data comes from official prison statistics for Scotland; 2013-14 is the latest available year.

Parole Recall in Scotland picture

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