‘IMPRISONMENT doesn’t work’, the SNP conference was told, as delegates agreed to launch a study into alternatives for criminal offences.

SNP members overwhelmingly passed a resolution which called for research into how other countries deal with offenders, such as Finland, and how that could apply in Scotland.

The issue was raised due to concerns that Scotland’s incarceration rate is too high.

There are currently 133 prisoners per 100,000 of the population in Scotland, comparatively this is only 130 per 100,000 in England and Wales, and much lower in other European countries.

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The Finnish prison model utlitises open prisons and a focus on rehabilitation, and has reduced imprisonment rates to some of the lowest in Europe without any increase in crime.

And, delegates called for a similar approach in Scotland, to deal with the overwhelming number of men in jail, of which 32% are aged 30 or under.

Glasgow City Councillor Graham Campbell told members that it became clear to him through the Community Justice Strategy that “imprisonment doesn’t work” and that alternatives to custodial sentences were more effective at “providing restorative justice”.

He added: “We recommended that we would spend more money on addressing issues like addiction, mental health crises, the crisis of people who have been in care are now way over represented and that providing a proper package of support then is the way to reduce overall offending and therefore reduce the need for people to be imprisoned.

The National:

“It's pretty clear that we need some of the solutions, the radical solutions outlined because seven and a half thousand people in jail make Scotland one of the most imprisoning countries in Europe.

“Still, we're still too close to the UK model.”

Cllr Campbell argued that following along the lines of the community justice strategy would be his preferred route.

Owen Thompson MP told delegates that the Scottish Government has already introduced a range of alternatives to custodial sentences. There is also currently a consultation on the use of bail and remand open to contributions.

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Thompson said: “When we see an issue that needs attention, we'll look for ways to address it, including looking for best practice from around the globe.

“This only goes to further highlight the tale of two countries that while many Tories in Westminster continue to press for more draconian justice, virtually calling for offenders to be locked up and the key thrown away.

“No, not here in Scotland, we look for a different way of doing things.”

The National:

Colin Storrier told members that there is a “not insignificant” number of people being imprisoned for nonviolent crimes such as housebreaking, shoplifting, drugs breaches and other miscelanous offences.

He said: “I don't want Scotland to be the incarceration nation nor the reconviction nation. I want us to be the rehabilitation nation.

“But we have a system that's fundamentally broken. We should have the humility to look at other approaches that have been more successful. We should have the humility to listen.”

The resolution passed overwhelmingly with 435 votes for and 10 against.