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HM Chief Inspector of Prisons for Scotland: Report for 2004-2005


1. Overview


Familiar Themes

It is said that no-one truly knows a nation until one has been inside its jails. A nation should not be judged by how it treats its highest citizens, but its lowest ones.1

So wrote Nelson Mandela. He visited Barlinnie Prison on 10 th June 2002. If he had visited Barlinnie on 5 th August 2004 he would have found that slopping out had at last been eradicated in Scotland's biggest prison. On that day I said Glasgow is today, in one respect at least, a more decent city than it has been for a century. Slopping out is a dreadful business: it is dreadful for prisoners, dreadful for prison staff, and, if Mandela is right, it is dreadful for the nation. So it is very good to be able to recognise that the past year has been significant in the reduction of the number of prisoners slopping out. On 1 st April 2004 the number was 1324 (19% of the prisoner population); on 31 st March 2005 the number was 616 (9%).

It is ironic that on the very day when slopping out ended in Barlinnie an Inspection Report on Polmont was published which drew attention to the continuation of slopping out there. This year's follow-up inspection report on Polmont says Slopping out still happens in Polmont. It is particularly bad that it happens in a hall which holds prisoners on remand …. It is very upsetting that the only remand prisoners who are regularly slopping out are under 21 years of age.

One of the worst things about slopping out has been that, more often than not, it has been combined with cell-sharing, which greatly increased the humiliation and the unpleasantness, and certainly increased the fears prisoners had of associated health risks. So it is also good to recognise that now no prisoner who is slopping out is sharing a cell. Slopping out could never be decent, but it is less indecent than it used to be. The Scottish Prison Service hopes that by the end of 2005 slopping out will only be happening in two prisons, Polmont and Peterhead. Before August 2004 there were five. Two, however, is still two too many.

Slopping out and overcrowding are the twin curses of Scotland's prisons. They have been identified as such in each Annual Report I have written and in several Annual Reports before that. So much else that is wrong arises directly from them. Overcrowding is a slightly less grim story this year, but only slightly. The highest number of prisoners in 2003-2004 was 7074; the highest number in 2004-2005 was 6999. The design capacity was unchanged: so overcrowding at the peak has fallen by 1%. But at its peak, overcrowding was still 13% above the design capacity.

A new system of counting places will make this simple measurement of overcrowding more difficult in the future. Under new contract arrangements prisons are contracted to take a certain number of prisoners. That number may be considerably higher than the number of places in the "design capacity" of the prison, but it will become the number against which overcrowding will be measured. In Inverness, for example, the inspection report said The prison is designed to hold 108 prisoners. The prison is contracted by SPS to have 160 prisoners: which is contracting for 48% overcrowding. By this way of measuring Inverness prison would not be considered overcrowded until its prisoner number was more than 48% above the number for which the prison was designed.

Overcrowding makes things worse for prison managers, for prison staff and for prisoners. It is a sentence I have had to write so often. The Report on Aberdeen gives some explanation: It is difficult for those who have not been inside a prison to understand why overcrowding is so damaging. Shared accommodation is part of it: in Aberdeen hardly any prisoner has single cell accommodation. This can mean that prisoners serving sentences of two years and more will be sharing cells designed for one person, with scarcely enough room to move about, with a person who has not been chosen, who may not be known, and who may have histories of behaviour or of medical conditions unknown to the other prisoner or indeed to staff. The impossibility of even the best members of staff having time to deal properly with the needs of individual prisoners; the impossibility of the best safety assessments being carried out on those new prisoners who might harm themselves; the impossibility of providing enough useful work, or programmes to address offending behaviour, or education to meet the needs of these very high prisoner numbers: it is not that these things are difficult: they are impossible. The prison has a laundry, a kitchen, a gym, a visit room, a health centre designed for half the number of prisoners who are there and who need to be dealt with.

There is nothing that the Scottish Prison Service can do to control the numbers in prison. It has to take the people sentenced by the courts to prison. The Scottish Executive published its Criminal Justice Plan in December 2004, "Supporting safer, stronger communities". It says Punishment in the form of community sentences is more conducive to rehabilitation;2 and we will take a more imaginative approach to addressing the problem of short prison sentences, by combining community and custodial sentences. 3 That approach is firmly based in reducing re-offending. If it results in reducing prison overcrowding then it will markedly increase the ability of prisons to contribute to that reduction.

The Report on Greenock illustrates what a difference it makes in a prison when overcrowding is reduced or disappears. Food is served more quickly so temperature and quality are likely to get better. More prisoners can access work. Staff have more time for contact with prisoners. More visits are available to prisoners. Staff spoke about less bullying, more time to do security checks, more time out of cell for prisoners. Staff and managers also spoke of lower stress levels and a reduction in absence. All of these benefits can be attributed to the reduction in numbers.

While the prison population has become a little smaller in the past year, one group whose number has risen is women offenders. Last year's Annual Report drew attention to the unhappy condition of women when they come into prison. Very many of them are physically unwell, mentally unwell, addicted and abused. Any one of these conditions is destructive: the repeated pattern of all four appearing together in one individual is what makes the subject of women in prison such an immensely difficult one, and such an immensely sad one.

It is understandable that most public attention on women prisoners is directed towards Cornton Vale. It holds the majority of women prisoners, and it is the only prison in Scotland which does not contain men. But there are also women at Greenock, and in small numbers at Aberdeen, Dumfries and Inverness. Where the numbers are small, the provision for women is very limited: the Report on Aberdeen is typical The accommodation is now quite shabby, especially the dormitory accommodation. Although they are not locked up for very long periods, it is still a very empty day for women prisoners in Aberdeen: the only provision of work is tedious, offers no training, and is completed in a short time each day.

The needs of these women are not different from the needs of women prisoners elsewhere. So their needs are very great and the provision is very limited. However, women often prefer to be in a local prison than in Cornton Vale for the good reason of family contact. Separation from family is serious for most prisoners; but its effect on women can be particularly severe. It is good that in Aberdeen, Dumfries and Inverness it is possible for women imprisoned for a short time to maintain the best possible family contact.

Children in Prison

When I took up this appointment I had not expected to find children in prison. I have not become accustomed to it: it is always very disturbing to discover a fifteen-year-old, and sometimes a fourteen-year-old, in jail.

In 2004 - 2005 18 children were held in prison in Scotland. Most were held for a short time; but not all. One was imprisoned for 155 days (two separate periods of custody); another for 66 days. Most were held in Polmont, but Kilmarnock, Cornton Vale, Barlinnie, Dumfries, Edinburgh and Greenock also held under-16s in 2004 - 2005.

The inspection report on Kilmarnock said: It is one of the prisons which regularly finds itself forced to contain children. At one time in the last year five children were held in Kilmarnock prison. None was present during the inspection period. The normal practice is that they are held in the health centre. There is no reason to believe that they are not treated properly: but there are very good reasons to believe that children should not be in prison.

There was no reason to believe that children were not treated properly in any prison. Careful study of the procedures in Polmont, for example, shows that the procedures which apply to under-16s in prison are followed strictly; and no under-16 has ever suggested to an inspector that treatment was bad (most of them, of course, are not in prison long enough to meet an inspector; but inspectors will make a point of seeing any child who is in any prison during an inspection). However, since one central institution, Polmont, held nearly half of the imprisoned children, visits (surely even more important for children in prison) are likely to be far from easy for many families to arrange.

Proper treatment is important; but even more important is the inappropriateness of children being held in prison. The U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child states that In all actions concerning children …. the best interests of the child shall be a primary consideration. And that imprisonment of a child shall be used only as a measure of last resort and for the shortest appropriate period of time.

Lord Woolf, the Lord Chief Justice of England, used a telling phrase when reviewing the imprisonment of two children. He spoke of the corrosive atmosphere of a Young Offenders Institution. However enlightened the regime, however skilled the staff, a prison is likely to harm children. Either they will be held in isolation, or they will be mixing with older people who are likely to have more experience of criminal activity.

So many of the children who are detained in prison have been excluded from home, excluded from school, excluded from society for much of their young lives. The Social Exclusion Unit of the UK Government carried out some research on children in prison. Their research was directed at England and Wales, but the results are recognisable in Scotland:

  • Nearly half have literacy and numeracy levels below those of an average 11 year-old.
  • Over a quarter have literacy and numeracy levels equivalent to those of an average seven year-old.
  • Between a quarter and a third of children in prison were not in education before imprisonment.
  • Over half of children in custody have been in care or involved with social services.
  • Two out of five girls and one out of four boys in prison report suffering violence in the home.
  • One in three girls and one in 20 boys in prison report sexual abuse.
  • Two out of every five boys and two-thirds of girls in prison had symptoms of anxiety, depression, fatigue and/or concentration problems (compared to one-tenth of general child population).
  • Around 85% of children in prison show signs of a personality disorder.
  • One in ten children in prison show signs of a psychotic illness (for example, schizophrenia).

Imprisonment excludes them further, and confirms their criminal identity.

When the Minister for Justice invited public debate on the Consultation on Reducing Re-offending there was a welcome and widespread recognition that "early intervention" is necessary to prevent young people sliding into criminal behaviour. The presence of each child under 16 in prison is the most stark illustration of the cost of failure, and of how far Scotland has to go.


The leading article in "The Herald" on 6 th August, 2004 was about prison food. It was about the size of portions in Polmont. It was quoting my March 2004 inspection report which said Almost every source of evidence agreed about one matter. There is not enough food for young men. The Visiting Committee, all prisoners, most members of staff, the catering department and the governor all identified this concern.

It may be that the key to many of the problems about prison food lies in the budget. The allowance is £11 per prisoner per week. This figure is unchanged since 1996: £1.57 is the total amount spent on all the food and drink consumed by a prisoner each day. This is the same as it was nine years ago. I once asked the manager in charge of catering at Polmont what he would do with an extra 50p per day per prisoner. His immediate reply was "Give them more".

It may be that budgetary considerations are also at the bottom of the failure of our prisons to provide a proper amount of fresh fruit and vegetables every day. The Scottish Executive recommends that everyone should eat a minimum of five portions of fruit and vegetables every day. There is no prison in Scotland in which a prisoner who chose every available option for fruit and vegetables could achieve that target. An examination of menus over a four week period shows that the average across all establishments is less than three portions per day.

The Scottish Executive recognises that the public sector should take the lead in the provision of healthy meals. I welcome the engagement during this past year of the SPS, the Chief Medical Officer and the Food and Health Coordinator in seeking to improve prison food. A survey has been undertaken, standards are being drawn up, contracts are being revised. But these discussions have not yet produced any real change. On every full inspection inspectors eat prison food at the point of cooking and at the point of serving. Too often they are disappointed at the point of serving (although reports regularly recognise that within the available budgets catering officers do their best).

It is not surprising that food is important for prisoners in the routine of a day or week or year which varies very little. The Prisoner Survey shows some variation in different prisons. It is noticeable that the food is better, and is seen by prisoners as better, in those prisons where it is served directly from the kitchen into the dining room; and it is least good, and seen by prisoners as least good, when it is transported in a heated trolley in covered trays. When these trays are kept in the trolley for any period of time the food begins to deteriorate quite quickly.

It might be that this is not merely about healthy eating. It might be that there is a connection between diet and behaviour. That same leader article in "The Herald" went on to say Providing young people with fresh, nutritious food and cutting out excess sugar, fat and salt have been shown to improve both the behaviour and learning abilities of young people. Most prisoners will have been eating a great deal of fat and sugar and sodium before they came into prison; and they will have been eating very little fruit and vegetables. It is possible that encouraging prisoners to eat nutritious food might be a contribution not only to healthier living but also to less destructive behaviour.

Sentence Management

Sentence Management is the method by which the Scottish Prison Service assesses the risk which long-term prisoners pose to themselves and to others and identifies the needs that these prisoners may have (for example in respect of educational or social needs). At the heart of the system is the Personal Officer, who should be the person making sure that an individual prisoner is engaged with the various services and programmes available in the prison. Too often in Inspection Reports inspectors have been critical of the extent to which Sentence Management actually happens.

The new individual contracts with prisons mean that local prisons such as Inverness or Barlinnie are no longer required to provide Sentence Management: long-term prisoners should move to a long-term prison. In reality this does not always happen; and there are numbers of long-term prisoners (for example those recalled for breaches of licence conditions or those being individually managed) who spend significant periods at local prisons. They will not benefit from Sentence Management.

The situation at the Open Estate was particularly poor having been described in my November 2003 report as worse than chaotic: this causes real concern since this is the final stage for many long-term prisoners before liberation. At Kilmarnock the system of Sentence Management which is in place is not the same as the system in place elsewhere in the SPS; and the system which is in place suffers from a lack of integration and consistency. At Dumfries the Inspection Report noted that the scheme does not operate in any coherent way … some work occurs on an ad hoc basis …. The situation is extremely poor.

After an inspection of Glenochil in 2003 I asked for a national review of the Sentence Management Scheme. At that time the SPS indicated that there was good compliance and accuracy of the risk and needs assessments, but significant lack of compliance with the completion of action plans which are the responsibility of personal officers. It should be recognised that the demands of a good Sentence Management Scheme in terms of resources are likely to be considerable. When prisons are required to make savings it may make it more difficult to meet these demands. But it is very important indeed that they are met. It is essential that the system which identifies the risks which prisoners pose and identifies the way of addressing these risks be consistently and comprehensively carried out.


Managing an increasing number of prisoners and having to find significant savings in every SPS prison at the same time will, sooner or later, have an effect on the conditions and treatment of prisoners. When I wrote that in last year's report I was reflecting many conversations with staff at all levels, with Visiting Committees, and with prisoners. Inspection Reports this year have drawn attention to some things which might be seen as effects of savings. At Shotts the crèche for the children of prisoners has been closed. Children now have no facilities or play workers available to them in the visit room. In the most recent Prisoner Survey there was a 24% reduction in prisoners' perception of the quality of facilities for children in the Shotts visit room. At Polmont, when there was cell-sharing in Argyll and Spey halls it was the practice that one half of the prisoners were allowed out of their cells at a time. This was because of the number of staff and the high number of prisoners. When the very welcome decision was made to stop cell-sharing where there is slopping out and prisoner numbers in these two halls were reduced it did not result in more time out of cells for prisoners. Staffing was reduced and still only half the prisoners were allowed out at any one time. At Cornton Vale the psychology cover has been reduced and there is now less psychology support available to prisoners.

In a more general way it may be that there is a more significant impact of savings. The ability of prisons to cope with peaks of absence or activity is reduced when there are fewer staff. This might lead to the closure of workshops or the cancellation of PE. When there are fewer managers the opportunity for managers to "walk the job", making sure that staff are maintaining the best possible regime for prisoners is reduced. Inspectors saw recreation sessions starting later than they should or finishing earlier than they should; and also saw prisoners who could not go to appointments because no officer could escort them. Several Governors have told me that working to make savings has been the most difficult and the most time-consuming part of their work in the last year.

Inspection of Prisons

Criminal Justice Plan and the Inspectorate

The Reducing Re-offending consultation led to "Supporting Safer, Stronger Communities: Scotland's Criminal Justice Plan". The thrust of the plan is to bridge the gap between prison and the outside world. The circumstances of release are critical for prisoners and for all those charged with reducing re-offending and for those who care about public safety. As the Scottish Prison Service and local authority social work departments work more closely together the process of inspection may need to change. The Criminal Justice Plan says:

We will therefore work with the Social Work Services Inspectorate and HM Chief Inspector of Prisons to build on their current joint inspection activity and identify how other aspects of inspection can be more closely integrated.

I welcome this statement. It recognises that there is already good cooperation between the Inspectorates. In particular, Social Work Inspectors make a significant contribution to all full prison inspections. Recently new protocols have been put in place which will involve cooperation between the two Inspectorates with regard to the inspection of records of arrangements for the release of sex offenders. There exists a good relationship which provides the right background for future work together, work to which I look forward.

But there are specific issues to do with the inspection of prisons which must not be lost sight of in the pursuit of integration. Prisons are closed environments, where prisoners are held in a coercive relationship. Public scrutiny of their conditions and treatment has been the focus of HM Inspectorate of Prisons since it was established. The inspection of systems and processes and value for money is, of course, important. But it is not more important than the need to make sure that the conditions and treatment of those held against their will in a closed environment are examined by an independent inspector reporting directly to the Minister responsible.

In England and Wales there is a plan to include the inspection of prisons within a larger Criminal Justice Inspectorate. In her Annual Report last year Anne Owers wrote I remain concerned that, over time and in practice, the sharp focus and robustly independent voice of the Prisons Inspectorate may be lost or muffled within a larger whole. If I were she I would share that concern; and I am very glad that there is no sign of any desire by Scottish Ministers to lose or to muffle the voice of the independent Chief Inspector of Prisons.

Are our prisons good?

Throughout this year I have seen three things over and over again.

First, how impressive is the contribution of so many prison staff. When I visited all the prisons five years ago as Moderator of the General Assembly I wrote Scotland is fortunate in its prison governors. I now have much more first-hand evidence to support that assertion; and I can still make it with complete confidence. But it is not only governors who have impressed me. I simply do not understand the low public esteem in which prison staff seem to be held. Day in and day out they work with people who are among the most dangerous and the most difficult in the country, where their own personal safety can never be taken for granted. Moreover, I have seen examples of commitment and intelligence and compassion at all levels in Scottish prisons which have moved me. At the presentation of Butler Trust awards Princess Anne spoke of the care, skill, integrity and imagination of prison staff. More people should hear these words.

Second, how damaging imprisonment can be. I have already written about the effect of imprisonment on women and children. But it hardly ever does much good for any prisoner, and often does actual harm. Of course I recognise that there are reasons for imprisonment other than to do the prisoner good, but there should be at the same time a recognition by us all that prison often does damage. Where a prisoner has a job or a home these things immediately become at least at risk. Where a prisoner has a family the pressures on relationships become immense. Where a prisoner suffers from low self-esteem (which seems to me almost to be a defining characteristic of most of the prisoners who never grab the headlines) the effect is further desperation. If the Scottish Executive's Criminal Justice Plan is right and the links between crime and deprivation are well known then the further deprivation which prisons represents may have consequences very different from those which we look for from our prisons.

Third, how little people care. Whenever there is an opportunity to tell people about prisons there is an opportunity to engage their interest and their social conscience. Invariably on such an occasion people will say I never thought about that before; I never knew it was like that. One of the effects of the creation of the Scottish Parliament is that there is more political and media discussion of Scotland's prisons than there used to be. But the conditions and treatment of prisoners seem to many people as much a matter of indifference as ever. More than two hundred years ago John Howard wrote Those gentlemen who, when they are told of the misery which our prisoners suffer, content themselves with saying 'let them take care to keep out....', forget the vicissitudes of human affairs; the unexpected changes to which men are liable; and that those whose circumstances are affluent, may in time be reduced to indigence, and become debtors and prisoners4. In our day Howard would not find things very different. I do not know whether it is lack of knowledge or lack of understanding or lack of sympathy; but I wish there were more who cared about what happens in Scotland's prisons.

2. Summary of Inspections Undertaken

HMP Barlinnie

Follow up inspection 27-29 April 2004 (last full inspection 5-14 May 2003)

  • The prison is hugely overcrowded and the facilities have to try to do much more than they were designed for.
  • Prisoners spend long hours locked in their cells.
  • The quality of the food at point of serving is not good.
  • The closure of 'A' Hall in order to install integral sanitation, and new arrangements in part of Letham Hall represent very significant steps towards the end of slopping out in Barlinnie.
  • The level of violence has reduced considerably in the past year.
  • The cubicles in Reception are still unacceptable.
  • Much progress has been made in the area of Race Relations.
  • The prison is now more organised in its approach to administering methadone.
  • Arrangements for Induction have improved considerably.
  • While there is still a backlog, considerable work has been carried out in addressing the Sentence Management needs of long-term prisoners on admission to the prison.

HMP Perth

Follow up inspection 19-20 May 2004 (last full inspection 7-11 January 2002)

  • There have been no escapes since the last inspection.
  • The prison is badly overcrowded.
  • Conditions in 'C' Hall are very bad. Slopping out and cell sharing still take place.
  • There is not enough work for prisoners who are spending long periods of time in cells.
  • Relationships between staff and prisoners are good.
  • Welcome improvements have been made to the Reception Area.
  • A new Addictions Centre has been established.
  • The work of the Family Contact Development Officers has been reinvigorated.
  • Work has been consolidated on the Links Centre and systems are thorough.

Overall, good progress has been made over the past year, despite the dreadful conditions in 'C' Hall and overcrowding generally. The imminent beginning of very considerable new building work offers the prospect of a renewed prison by the end of the decade. In the meantime every effort should be made to address the issue of slopping out and the problems associated with overcrowding.

HMP Aberdeen

Full inspection 21-28 June 2004

  • There have been no escapes in the past year.
  • Overcrowding continues to be very high.
  • Relationships between staff and prisoners are good.
  • Levels of assaults have been reduced.
  • The Health Centre, visits room and reception area are all inadequate: a situation made worse by the chronic overcrowding.
  • Good progress has been made in establishing a Links Centre, in improving access to Physical Education, in introducing changes to the visiting arrangements and in the development of chaplaincy.
  • A change in the method of serving food has produced significant improvement in terms of quality, quantity and choice.
  • Levels of drug use within the prison are high.
  • The needs of women prisoners, prisoners on remand and protection prisoners are not met adequately.

HMP Inverness

Full inspection 16-20 August 2004

  • There had been no escapes since the last inspection.
  • Relationships between staff and prisoners were excellent throughout the prison.
  • The prison has established good links with the community.
  • The prison is badly overcrowded.
  • There are only very limited opportunities for women prisoners to spend their time usefully.
  • The reception area of the prison is unacceptable.
  • The visits room is small and cramped; the gymnasium is inadequate.
  • Access to healthcare is at least equal to that provided by NHS Services to the general population.
  • Opportunities for learning are very responsive to the needs of prisoners.
  • The quality and quantity of the food was very good; arrangements for laundering clothes were outstanding.
  • Arrangements for induction and the Personal Officer scheme were outstanding.

HMP Glenochil

Follow up inspection 7-8 September (last full inspection 8-16 September 2003)

  • There had been no escapes in the twelve months prior to inspection.
  • A major building programme is underway including the construction of a new houseblock. This will provide good living conditions for prisoners and good working conditions for staff. The buildings which once housed the Young Offenders Institution have been demolished.
  • The response of Glenochil to matters raised in the full inspection report of last year has been very good. Nearly every matter which the prison could have resolved has been resolved.
  • The prison has tried to deal with the habit which some prisoners have of throwing bodily waste and other litter into the exercise yards. However, the practice continues.
  • Some prisoners continue to be released into the community straight from Glenochil, without any of the benefits which preparation in top-end or open conditions might offer. This is because of the number of prisoners already in these other prisons.

HMP Kilmarnock

Full inspection 25 -29 October 2004

  • There have been no escapes since the prison opened.
  • All prisoners live in decent accommodation and the cells are kept clean and tidy.
  • The prison provides a safe environment: the number of assaults has reduced considerably, and management have introduced an anti-bullying strategy.
  • Staff treat prisoners with respect, and relationships between staff and prisoners are relaxed.
  • Arrangements for family contact are good.
  • There are few activities available to prisoners when they are out of their cells in the evening and at weekends.
  • Few opportunities for spending time usefully are available to remand prisoners.
  • Children under the age of 16 are regularly held in the prison.
  • Improvements have been made in Sentence Management: however the various elements of this are not fully joined up.
  • The provision of learning is impoverished: there is a lack of proper provision for basic education in reading, writing and numeracy.
  • The access of prisoners to facilities and opportunities within the prison is damaged by the lack of availability of staff to escort them.

HMP Shotts

Follow up inspection 24-25 November 2004 (last full inspection 10-18 November 2003)

  • There had been no escapes in the twelve months prior to inspection.
  • The major changes in the use of accommodation introduced in 2003 have been successful.
  • More long-term prisoners are now able to be included in the positive programme of the National Induction Centre.
  • Kerr House is now established as a resource for prisoners from other prisons.
  • The availability of fresh fruit and vegetables is no greater than it was last year.
  • The use of cubicles in the reception area is still unacceptable.
  • The toilets in cells are still unscreened.
  • Family contact provision remains at a diminished level.
  • The prison has piloted a violence prevention programme and early indications are that this is a positive initiative.

HMP Dumfries

Full inspection 6-10 December 2004

  • There have been no escapes in the past year.
  • Levels of violence within the prison have been reduced in the past year.
  • Prisoners live in decent accommodation and the prison is not overcrowded.
  • Healthcare provision is adequate; except for mental health.
  • The quality of the food was good.
  • The effectiveness of response to addictions is diminished because of the absence of some key roles.
  • Compliance with the ACT requirements was inadequate.
  • Work opportunities for prisoners are limited as is access to vocational training.
  • Chaplaincy provision is limited.
  • Arrangements for visits are good; but the FCDO scheme does not work.
  • Relationships between staff and prisoners are described as very good by prisoners and staff alike. However some attitudes and behaviours of staff raise concerns.
  • There is no Sentence Management Scheme for long-term prisoners in place.
  • Induction is disorganised and inconsistent.
  • Prisoners are not able to have completely regular access to regime opportunities, education and health.
  • There is a pre-release programme for short-term prisoners, but almost no pre-release arrangements for long-term prisoners and only very limited provision for women.
  • The prison has not yet been able to manage the competing needs of the different prisoner groups.

HMP Greenock

Follow up inspection 19-20 January 2005 (last full inspection 21-26 January and 1 February 2001)

  • Reduced prisoner numbers, particularly in Ailsa Hall, have resulted in improvements to the regime. More prisoners can access work, staff have more time for contact with prisoners, more visits are available and there is less bullying.
  • Arrangements for Sentence Management are not consistent.
  • The use of the new Links Centre and the current smaller Links Centre is a welcome and innovative expansion of services promoting Social Inclusion.
  • The prison has reviewed its prisoner external Work Placement Scheme. This is now well organised and is making a very good contribution to preparing prisoners for release.

HMP & YOI Cornton Vale

Follow up inspection 2-3 February 2005 (last full inspection 22-29 May 2001)

  • There had been no escapes and no absconds in the twelve months prior to the inspection.
  • Building work is progressing on new accommodation.
  • A new Family Centre has been opened which provides better opportunities for the involvement of families in the work of the prison and in the lives of the prisoners.
  • Arrangements for visits remain inadequate.
  • Funding has been agreed for a complete refit of the reception.
  • The arrangements for access to toilets at night in Younger House remain unacceptable.
  • The refurbishment of the Mother and Baby Unit is to be welcomed.
  • Cornton Vale holds very many prisoners with a high incidence of drug addiction, mental health problems, history of abuse and very poor physical health.

HMYOI Polmont

Follow up inspection 2-4 March 2005 (last full inspection 15-23 March 2004)

  • There had been no escapes in the twelve months prior to inspection.
  • Arrangements for access to sanitation and hygiene in Argyll and Spey Halls are bad, although they are better than they were.
  • There are still insufficient work places for the convicted population and young adults spend too long locked up in their cells.
  • Children under the age of 16 are still being held in Polmont.
  • The portions of food are no bigger than before.
  • The YOI is much better at ensuring that young adults get to where they need to be in the establishment.
  • The new build project is now well underway, with the first of two Activities buildings due for completion in the summer of 2005.
  • The very bad conditions in Nevis Hall identified in last year's report have been addressed. Nevis is now a new Drug Prevention Centre: an innovative programme has been introduced.

HMP Peterhead

Follow up inspection 30-31 March 2005 (last full inspection 27-31 January 2003)

  • There had been no escapes in the twelve months prior to the inspection.
  • The installation of electric power in cells is now complete. Prisoners are no longer sharing cells.
  • A new local 'top-end' provides very good living conditions for a small number of prisoners.
  • Considerably more prisoners are doing the STOP programme.
  • Prisoners who do not wish to take part in the STOP programme are no longer held together in 'B' Hall. This has removed the stigma of a 'downgrade' hall.
  • Prisoners are spending long periods of time locked up in their cells.
  • Slopping out continues and the conditions in which prisoners live will never be decent while this is the case.
  • The uncertainty about the future of the prison is as great as ever.

The Open Estate

This follow up inspection was due to take place 10-12 November. It was postponed at the request of the Governor. A letter from the Chief Inspector of Prisons to the Chief Executive of the Scottish Prison Service detailed the reasons for this. The text of the letter, dated 27 September 2004 is reproduced below:


The Governor of Castle Huntly and Noranside has asked me to postpone my inspection. I have decided to agree to his request. His approach to me was unusual; but I do not think that it was inappropriate. My agreeing to the request is based entirely on the merits of the case and not to do with any sense of pressure I might have felt from him or the SPS. I felt no such pressure and I am sure that no such pressure was intended.

The inspection planned to begin on October 10 is a follow-up inspection, pursuing matters raised in previous inspections. Mr Whitehead's reasons for seeking a postponement are:

His belief that his prolonged absence from the Open Estate on other SPS duties has meant that "there has been little further movement on the larger integration strategy"; and that the inspection is likely to find that matters criticised in the last report have not yet been improved.

His fear that current Press discontent with regard to certain aspects of the Open Estate will be reinforced by a negative report at this stage; and that this will have a damaging effect on staff.

My reasons for agreeing to the request are:

  • This inspection is a third follow-up; my experience is that follow-up inspections have the greatest impact when they are first follow-ups.
  • My expressions of serious criticisms of specific matters at the Open Estate have been clearly set out. As long as these matters are not corrected my views remain the same. From what Mr Whitehead's letter tells me it is not likely that I would find evidence that they have been corrected.
  • I take seriously the matter of staff morale. I must never shirk from making the criticisms I must based on the evidence I see; but it is right for me to be aware of the effects of my published reports.
  • I think it likely that an inspection in October will find repeated promises that the return of the Governor to post means that this matter or that is only now being taken up, and will be seen very differently in a few months. I think it better to postpone the inspection to a time when I would be entitled to expect to find evidence of real progress.
  • I hope that even now plans are being made to improve the conditions and treatment of prisoners at the Open Estate; and a postponement will give the Governor a fair opportunity to implement these plans.

It is possible that progress will quickly be made with the building of new accommodation at Castle Huntly.

I therefore will:

  • Cancel the inspection of 10-12 November.
  • Bring forward to an earlier date than anticipated the full inspection planned for 2005-6.
  • Ask the Depute Chief Inspector of Prisons to meet the Governor formally to learn from him his plans for addressing the matters which have caused me most concern; and a timetable for the execution of these plans.
  • Send a copy of this letter to the Visiting Committees of both establishments as a courtesy.
  • Print this letter in my Annual Report for 2004-5 by way of explanation for the absence of any inspection report on the Open Estate.

If I had carried out the Inspection at the date announced I would have been pursuing the principal question raised in the report of 2003: the question of the "preparation of release which is actually at this point available for prisoners". I believe that this is a question which is not only a question for the Governor and his staff; but is also a question for the Prison Board about the purpose of the Open Estate. It is a question to which I shall be hoping to find encouraging answers when I carry out a full inspection next year.

HMP Low Moss

This follow up inspection was due to take place 23-25 February 2005. It was put on hold given the uncertainty about the future of the prison. Should the prison remain open, this follow up inspection will take place in 2005-06.

HMP Edinburgh

This full inspection was due to take place 14-23 March 2005. It was postponed to allow the new houseblock to be completed. The inspection will take place in 2005-06.

Legalised Police Cells

Full inspection July 2004

There are nine Police Stations in Scotland where police cells have been "legalised"; in them prisoners (as opposed to those taken into custody by the police) can be detained for a period up to 30 days. These nine Police Stations are all in places which are not near to prisons (where these prisoners would otherwise be held): Lerwick, Kirkwall, Thurso, Stornoway, Lochmaddy, Oban, Campbeltown, Dunoon and Hawick. The cells at Ayr were discontinued from 30 November 2002. It is the responsibility of HM Chief Inspector of Prisons to inspect legalised police cells in the same terms as prisons, and to report on the conditions and treatment of prisoners in them. Inspection of the cells takes place every three years.

A summary of the main findings is provided below:

The police authorities were most helpful and cooperative throughout the process. Insofar as it is possible to judge, the attitudes which were displayed by police officers indicated an entirely proper care of prisoners in their charge.

Prisoners, both convicted and remanded, form only a small proportion of those detained in police custody. As the cells are dual purpose, it is perhaps inevitable that their conditions and treatment will be very like that of the others who are using the cells. This similarity gives rise, however, to two concerns, since prisoners are in fact in a different category: (i) the physical conditions in which prisoners live are very bleak. The regular provision is of no more than a mattress and an uncovered, unscreened toilet. In one case the practice had been, apparently, to supply cardboard furniture: none of this was available to be seen during inspection. Their imprisonment is in circumstances which are highly risk-averse: they do not wear their own shoes and, in at least one case, their spectacles are removed. In a prison, these conditions would only be experienced by prisoners who had been identified by a careful process as being at real risk. (ii) Information supplied by the Scottish Prison Service to these prisoners was completely absent. In many cases there was good information supplied by the police (although usually with no reference to fire procedures). However, information about the rights of prisoners ( e.g. in connection with the Scottish Prisons Complaints Commission) was not available. The responsibility for the supervision of these prisoners remains with the police authority; does the Scottish Prison Service also have a responsibility to them? The fact that their conditions and treatment are the subject of inspection by the Prisons Inspectorate suggests that their rights are the same as the rights of other prisoners. If that is the case, then it is important that they should know what their rights are.

Several reports refer to the absence of opportunity for outside exercise for prisoners in legalised police cells. In one or two cases such absence of opportunity has been sanctioned by a waiver. Prisoners are not given an opportunity which is normally their right; and they are denied something that might be good for them.

A number of common themes and issues specific to individual cells were also highlighted, and these were made subject to Recommendations and Points of Note as follows:

Recommendations for SPS/Relevant Police Forces

  • Standard induction information should be produced detailing what prisoners can expect to receive and what they are entitled to.
  • Each location should be issued with a standard set of Rules, Notices and Operating Standards and these should be readily available in the cell areas.
  • Standard guidelines should be issued to Visiting Committees to allow them to discharge their duties properly.
  • All prisoners should be provided with the opportunity to exercise in the open air.
  • Some basic furniture should be provided when cells are being used. This should include a table and chair at which prisoners can eat.
  • All toilets in cells should be screened.

Recommendations for Individual Legalised Police Cells

  • Oban A practice fire evacuation should be carried out on at least once a year.
  • Dunoon A curtain or modesty screen should be fitted in the female shower.

The cell call alarm indicator screen should be moved to make it more accessible and speed up response times.

A larger alarm indicator screen should be fitted.

  • Campbeltown In the absence of the door being used in the upstairs bathroom, a curtain or modesty screen should be fitted or a cubicle for dressing/undressing provided.

A practice fire evacuation should take place at least once a year when prisoners are present.

Points of Note for Individual Legalised Police Cells

  • Lerwick Training should be given to officers in connection with identifying or dealing with incidents of self harm.
  • Oban There was clear evidence of water ingress in two of the cells and the WC in the female cell showed leakage. These should be addressed.
  • Hawick Safe systems of work for the storage and dispensing of medication should be identified and monitored.
3. Review of the Prisons Inspectorate's Year 2004-2005

Inspections and Other Reports

Inspections for the year were completed as follows.

Full Inspections

HMP Aberdeen - 21-28 June 2004
HMP Inverness - 16-20 August 2004
HMP Kilmarnock - 25-29 October 2004
HMP Dumfries - 6-10 December 2004
Legalised Police Cells - July 2004

Follow Up Inspections

HMP Barlinnie - 27-29 April 2004
HMP Perth - 19-20 May 2004
HMP Glenochil - 7-8 September 2004
HMP Shotts - 24-25 November 2004
HMP Greenock - 19-20 January 2005
HMP & YOI Cornton Vale - 2-3 February 2005
HMYOI Polmont - 2-4 March 2005
HMP Peterhead - 30-31 March 2005

Submissions to the Scottish Parliament's Justice Committees

The 2003-2004 Annual Report was laid before the Scottish Parliament on 6 October 2004, with oral evidence given to the Justice Committees on 10 November 2004.


March 2005

April 2004

HM Chief Inspector

Dr Andrew McLellan


Dr Andrew McLellan


HM Deputy Chief Inspector

Rod MacCowan


Rod MacCowan


HM Assistant Chief Inspector

Dr David McAllister


Dr David McAllister


HM Inspector

David Abernethy


David Abernethy


Administrative Support

Janet Reid


Janet Reid


David Abernethy was seconded to the Scottish Prison Service in February and March 2005.

A list of Specialist and Associate Inspectors for the year is provided below.

HMP Aberdeen

Stewart Macfarlane

Associate Inspector

Jim Rooney

Education Adviser

Frances Smith

Nursing and Medical Adviser

Tom Leckie

Addictions and Social Work Adviser

HMP Inverness

Alastair Delaney

Education Adviser

Rhona Hotchkiss

Healthcare Adviser

Sean Doherty

Healthcare Adviser

Tom Leckie

Addictions and Social Work Adviser

Richard Hough

Observer - Scottish Parliament

HMP Kilmarnock

John McCaig

Associate Inspector

Iain Lowson

Education Adviser

Rhona Hotchkiss

Healthcare Adviser

Tom Leckie

Addictions and Social Work Adviser

Mary McCann


HMP Dumfries

Sandra Hands

Associate Inspector

Jim Rooney

Education Adviser

Rhona Hotchkiss

Healthcare Adviser

Tom Leckie

Addictions and Social Work Adviser


The Inspectorate's budget for 2004-2005 is shown below:-

  • Staff costs for five full time staff


  • Advisers, training, travel and subsistence and other running costs


  • Total

The 2005-2006 budget is:



Recent reports can be found on our website ( www.scotland.gov.uk/hmip).
Email: andrew.mclellan@scotland.gsi.gov.uk.


1. Nelson Mandela. Long Walk to Freedom
2. p45
3. p48
4. John Howard, The State of the Prisons