Source: (2002) SPICs Briefing provided as background to the Executive debate on 'Alternatives to Custody' which took place on Tuesday 28 May 2002.

This briefing paper provides information on incarceration and alternatives to custody in Scotland. The Scottish criminal courts have a wide range of sentencing disposals from imprisonment to absolute discharge. The use of imprisonment is still relatively rare in Scotland, but in the last decade the numbers sentenced to incarceration have been rising both in absolute and proportionate terms. After a survey of key statistics on imprisonment in Scotland, it is noted that custody is an expensive option of dubious effectiveness. Hence, the Government is encouraging the courts to make greater use of non-custodial sentences. Non-custodial sentences may include admonition, caution, absolute discharge, fine, probation, community service, compensation, supervised attended, drug treatment and testing, and restriction of liberty. The briefing paper also examines restorative justice and public opinions on prisons and alternatives to custody.