Inspector slams private jail over high levels of violence
FEARS have been raised over the levels of staffing at HMP Addiewell after Scotland's chief prisons inspector raised concerns about high levels of violence at the privately-run jail.
Brigadier Hugh Monro's first report on the West Lothian jail highlighted the fact that the number of assaults was seven times that experienced in HMP Kilmarnock, a high-security private prison.
Between October 2009 and October 2010 there were 49 incidents of prisoner-on-staff violence - more than three times that at Saughton. Two of these were classed as serious violence.
Brig Monro, who called for the jail to carry out a probe into the attacks, said "despite staff feeling safe and treating prisoners well, the level of violence in the prison is high when compared with prisons of equivalent size and function".
He added: "Of particular concern is the number of minor staff assaults. The reasons for the high number of assaults should be examined and I will continue to monitor this whole area."
Clive Fairweather, former chief inspector of prisons for Scotland, who first inspected the violence-stricken HMP Kilmarnock in 1999 after it was completed, told the Evening News that staff shortages were often closely linked to attacks on guards and echo what he found at Kilmarnock.
He said: "The public would be utterly horrified if they knew how few staff there are in private prisons compared to public sector prisons. The only other private prison is Kilmarnock. I can remember saying to the governor I felt it was not a safe prison and it was not well enough staffed to deal with what I saw as potential violence.
"As far as I am aware HMP Kilmarnock is the only prison in Scotland where the governor was kicked unconscious by the prisoners."
"Now we have high levels of violence in another private prison. I haven't visited Addiewell, but I've always had a worries about private prisons and the number of staff there are per prisoner.
"In the end Kilmarnock upped their staff. Addiewell may have to do the same."
Steve Farrell, deputy general secretary of the Prison Service Union, agreed that staff levels in private prisons were too low but added that it was often strict government contracts which constrain private firms such as Sodexo, which operates Addiewell.
He said: "In a public prison like Glenochil, if you are short on staff you can close a wing and move prisoners around. If you did this at Addiewell, Sodexo would be fined for a contract breach. The result is that there will be staff shortages in wings."
Asked if workers from Addiewell had approached his union to discuss fears over staff shortages, Mr Farrell said: "Most definitely".
The 130m, 700-capacity prison opened in December 2008 but has been the scene of several riots.
In response to the report, Audrey Park, director of HMP Addiewell, said: "Within a short period of time, HMP Addiewell has established high standards across a number of key areas such as security and drug testing.
"We welcome the chief inspector's recommendations where improvements need to be made and have already implemented an action plan to address these areas."
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