The Scottish Human Rights Commission has written to Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf, raising serious concerns about the management of Covid-19 in Scotland’s prisons.
The Commission is seeking assurance that steps will be taken to address the rising prison population, which is fast approaching pre-lockdown levels. This is particularly worrying, because the rise in prisoner numbers coincides with high incidence of covid infection among prisoners. In their letter to the Justice Secretary, the Commission points out that “while the reported swab positivity rate for symptomatic persons being tested in the community in Scotland is currently around 10%, information provided to us by the Scottish Prison Service indicates that in Scottish prisons on 11 January 2021 that rate was 64%”.
The combination of high numbers and high incidence has concerning implications. There is the risk of infection to the prisoners themselves, and to staff. There is the consequent further risk of infection being transmitted to others outside the prison. And there is the inevitable impact on prisoners’ fundamental rights, including time out of cell, access to outdoor exercise and time spent in purposeful activity.
The Commission’s letter can be found HERE.