24 Apr 2008 04:39 PM
Inverness is regularly one of the most overcrowded prisons in Scotland, and from time to time prisoners have to sleep on mattresses on the floors of cells according to HM Chief Inspector of Prisons, Dr Andrew McLellan's latest report which follows a full, unannounced inspection last November.
The main findings are:
* There are sometimes three prisoners sharing a cell
* It is not possible for the prison to provide decent living conditions when it is required to hold so many prisoners; but even with lower numbers of prisoners, some of the living accommodation could never be acceptable, with no natural light or ventilation
* Very few prisoners have any useful work to do and there is a large workshop which is not used
* There is very little for women prisoners to do
* The visits room is poor; booking arrangements are patchy; there is very little information for visitors; and there is no opportunity for families to participate in induction
* The prison is safe; relationships are good; anti suicide measures are good; there are few drugs; and there is no obvious evidence of bullying
* All prisoners have an entitlement to education including those on remand and those serving short-term sentences.
* The food is amongst the best in the SPS, the prisoners' shop is very good, and the laundry arrangements are also very good
* Escort staff treat prisoners well, and the escort arrangements are carried out appropriately and
* The provision of healthcare is as good as that provided in the community
Dr McLellan said:
"This inspection was not announced beforehand. Inspectors arrived at the prison gate to announce that an inspection was beginning. All prison managers and staff were most cooperative and helpful. An unannounced inspection provides reassurance to Scottish Ministers and to the Scottish public that everything prisons do is open at all times to inspection.
"Much of the content of this report is similar to the content of previous reports on inspection of Inverness. Much that has been found good in the past continues to be good. The food is excellent. Relationships between prisoners and prison staff are also very good. The comment is often made that in a small local prison like this one the same prisoners regularly come in and meet the same officers who have been serving there for many years. Staff and prisoners alike said that this familiarity was a significant factor in the good relationships.
"The good relationships undoubtedly contribute to the high level of safety in Inverness. Anti-suicide measures are good, there is no evidence of bullying, levels of violence are low, and staff and prisoners say that they feel safe. All of this might also result from lower levels of drug use in Inverness prison than in other prisons.
"The healthcare and laundry facilities continue to be very good, and the library arrangements, mostly under the supervision of a prisoner, are outstanding.
"However, Inverness is regularly one of the most overcrowded prisons in Scotland. Indeed, from time to time prisoners have to sleep on mattresses on the floors of cells. Sometimes there are three prisoners sharing a cell. This is happening at a time when cell doors are being kept locked for longer and longer periods each day. It is not possible for the prison to provide decent living conditions when it is required to hold so many prisoners.
"Very few prisoners in Inverness have any useful work to do. Indeed, nearly all of the work places are those which are designed to meet the prison's own needs: kitchen, laundry and cleaning. There is a large workshop which is not used. No work opportunities have replaced those lost from the workshop. Inverness is like other prisons in the disappearance of workplaces: but that is of little comfort to the prisoners who want to work.
"The small unit for women prisoners shows the best and the worst of the prison. Relationships between staff and prisoners are particularly good: all of the prisoners present during the inspection spoke of the caring and supportive attitude of staff. On the other hand there is very little for women to do. Despite this, women value the opportunities to maintain family contact which Inverness provides more highly than the opportunities for useful, challenging stimulating days which they might find in Cornton Vale.
"Previous reports have been critical of the lack of investment in Inverness prison, resulting in poor facilities in reception, the gym and the visits room. Some small improvements have been made in reception; but the visits room and the gym are as bad as they were before."NOTES FOR NEWS EDITORS
1. Today's report related to a full, unannounced, inspection of Inverness prison, with a focus on the conditions in which prisoners live and on the way prisoners are treated.
2. For an embargoed advance electronic version of the report the media should approach the Scottish Government press office on 0131 244 2656.