Literacy crisis in Scotland’s jails

28 Dec 2012

Ruth Davidson MSP

More than 80 per cent of Scotland’s prisoners are functionally illiterate, significantly more than originally thought.

Information obtained by the Scottish Conservatives has also revealed seven in ten inmates are functionally innumerate, emphasising the need for more education, training and work in the country’s jails.

The new figures are much worse than estimates given by the Scottish Prison Service (SPS) in recent years.

In 2010, the SPS estimated 50 per cent were illiterate.

But in the latest assessment, the SPS told the Scottish Conservatives through Freedom of Information that “approximately 81 per cent of prisoners screened were assessed as lacking functional literacy and 71 per cent as lacking in functional numeracy”.

The party has consistently called for prisoners to be given work or training while inside, meaning their time would be used productively and they would be better prepared for work or further training upon leaving jail.

The wages they earn while working could be docked to go towards a victim support fund or paying outstanding fines or child maintenance.

Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson MSP said:

“These findings show just how acute the problem is with prisoners lacking basic skills in maths and English.

“That severely hampers their chances of securing employment when they are released, not to mention the fact they also have a jail term under their belt.

“This is why we need to introduce full-time work and training for prisoners as soon as possible.

“They are gaining nothing from stewing in their cells and watching TV all day when they could be making a positive contribution.

“If we are truly serious about reducing reoffending, we have to try and improve people’s chances with education.

“If prisoners are being released with no literacy or numeracy skills, there is no doubt it will increase the chances of them returning to prison in the future.”