The increased longevity and frequency of Scottish life sentences has severe repercusions. When it comes to rehabilitation, the more time a person spends in prison, the more unlikely it is that they will reintegrate back into society smoothly. Are lengthier life sentences supporting rehabilitation and personal change or are they stunting it? If change occurs in the earlier years of a life sentence, how can that positive change be continued when the inmate still has years of prison time ahead and they have done all the courses available? Research has found that if someone has no hope, this undermines any chance of personal change.I briefly read some of Prof van Zyl Smit’s writings and he argues that there may be a right to hope in prison and sentences should not undermine this. He noted in closing that, as with abolition of the death penalty, many countries are moving away from life sentences. Scotland and England are becoming the outliers in Europe in keeping people under lifelong supervision.
The high and continuously growing number of life sentences handed out by the courts contributes to Scotland having one of the highest prison populations in Western Europe. If we are going to genuinely attempt to reduce the number of people imprisoned in Scotland, improve reintegration and rehabilitation, and achieve the Scottish government’s stated aim of social justice, then Scotland’s over-reliance on life sentences must be tackled. Clearly the public perception of soft-touch sentences, perpetuated by certain sections of the media and some politicians, does not match the reality. Increased tariffs, no maximum tariff, and the reluctance to grant parole all add weight to the argument that far from being the most humane, Scottish penal policy in fact produces one of the most punitive systems in Europe.
DC for johnnyboysteele.com