Prisoners unpick hi-tech lock system
PRISON officers have been forced to abandon a new security system and return to the use of keys after the cutting-edge technology repeatedly failed.
The system, which is thought to have cost over 3 million, used fingerprint recognition to activate the locking system at the high-security Glenochil Prison near Tullibody, Clackmannanshire.
After typing in a PIN code, prison officers had to place their finger on a piece of glass. Once the print was recognised, they could then lock and unlock prison doors.
However, problems arose after a prisoner demonstrated to wardens that he could get through the system at will. Other prisoners had been doing the same for some time.
Instead of fixing the state-of-the-art technology, prison governors have decided that it is more cost-effective to get rid of it and return to the system of every officer having his own key.
For more than a month, the 420 inmates - including some murderers and other high-risk inmates - had been able to wander around the high-security jail. Staff claim that the unlimited access to all parts of the prison had allowed some prisoners to settle old scores with rivals.
Some even predicted the security breach would lead to members of staff being attacked or taken hostage.
It is thought that Saughton Prison in Edinburgh has also experienced problems with similar technology.
Staff at Glenochil are frustrated that time and money have been wasted and are anxious to have a new system put in place.
A prison insider said: "We were notified in the staff newsletter that they would be reverting back to the old keys.
"The equipment for the fingerprint system is still in place, but it is no longer in use. It will probably stay there for years but never get used.
"At the moment, we are still having to go through the control room in order to get through doors because the keys and locks have not been fitted yet.
"Everything has been held up, although it has got a little better in the past week.
"We are getting used to it now and the people in the control room are faster at letting us through, but we are still worried that someone will get stuck behind a door.
"In an emergency, it can be really dangerous."
The newsletter did not state when staff would be getting their set of keys, which would allow them to access different parts of the jail more easily without any queuing.
The insider said: "They have not put a timescale on it, so we don't know when it will be sorted out.
"I heard there have been the same problems in Saughton and I'm not surprised.
"If the security system fails in one jail, then it normally gets taken out of them all.
"They don't like to have different types in different jails. It is better if all the prisons have the same device."
A spokesman for the Scottish Prison Service admitted that there had been problems but said that it was working to find an alternative.
He said: "We are presently working with the supplier with a view to obtaining something that will meet our needs.
"We are working under the contract to come up with an alternative and solve this problem."
Glenochil is in the process of demolishing the last of its four old halls, D Hall. A, B and C Halls have already been flattened.
A second new hall is expected to be built within the next few years.
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