Annual report by Chief Inspector of Prisons

6 Nov 2008 11:01 AM

Overcrowding; the imprisonment of children under 16 years of age, and the continuing lack of work are key frustrations in Scottish prisons.

The Annual Report of Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Prisons published yesterday highlights:

  • The continuing use of imprisonment for some children
  • The difficulties in improving the quality of food
  • A lack of work for most prisoners
  • The impact of high levels of overcrowding
  • The poor conditions in which remand prisoners live
  • Problems in reducing re-offending and
  • The poverty, social exclusion and inequality from which nearly all prisoners suffer

However, the report also emphasises:

  • Improvements in sanitation.
  • The fact that prisons are safe.
  • Good links between prisons and the community.
  • Discussions are taking place about how to improve the delivery of healthcare and
  • Renewed attention is being paid to tackling alcohol abuse

Dr Andrew McLellan said:

"It is very frustrating that children under the age of 16 are still being sent to prison - despite the Cabinet Secretary's announcement that it should stop. This practice should be abolished.

"There are just not enough prisoners working, learning useful skills, developing self respect and acquiring industrious habits. When we compare this situation to what was available to prisoners in 1986 it is even more frustrating. Part of this is a result of overcrowding - which continues to get worse - and part of it might be to do with having to make savings. Whatever the reason, prisoners should have the opportunity to work.

"Remand prisoners are once again living in the worst conditions and have the worst regime in any prison. They hardly ever have the chance of a job to break up the day and may well spend 22 hours out of 24 locked up. This situation must not be allowed to continue.

"The unchanging poverty, social exclusion and inequality from which almost all prisoners suffer is the most powerful factor in inhibiting transformation and rehabilitation among prisoners. Prison can only do so much.

"On a more positive note the disappearance of slopping out is an unqualified benefit. The safety of prisons has increased enormously since the 1970s, and relationships between staff and prisoners are very good. Prisons continue to develop good links with outside agencies, particularly in terms of preparing prisoners for release. All prisons have now opened Links Centres and a prisoner nearing release has a much better chance of some housing, benefits and employment arrangement being made and waiting for him or her on the outside.

"Many crimes are committed by drunk people. So many victims of crime are victims because of alcohol abuse. It is encouraging that renewed attention is being paid in prison and in society to the destructive power of misused alcohol."

Under the terms of Section 7 of the Prisons (Scotland) Act 1989 (as amended) it is the duty of the Chief Inspector of Prisons to inspect or arrange for the inspection of prisons, legalised police cells and prisoner escort arrangements in Scotland. Following each inspection the Chief Inspector reports to Scottish Ministers on the treatment of prisoners and conditions in prisons. The Chief Inspector submits an Annual Report to Scottish Ministers. The Chief Inspector may also report on any matter connected with Scottish prisons as directed by Scottish Ministers. The report published today is the Chief Inspector's Annual Report which covers the period April 1 2007-March 31 2008.

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