PRISONERS in Scotland’s newest jail carried out 165 assaults on fellow inmates and staff last year, a report has revealed.
An inspection report on Low Moss Prison in Bishopbriggs disclosed that in 2012-13, there were 15 serious attacks by prisoners on other criminals being held in the jail.
There were a further 140 assaults by prisoners on fellow inmates where the victim suffered minor injury or no injuries, and 10 such assaults on prison staff.
There were also “five incidents of concerted indiscipline” over the year, most of which were said to be some form of sit down protest.
The report, by HM Chief Inspector of Prison David Strang, stressed Low Moss had “appropriate staffing levels” in place to “ensure good order is maintained”, adding “most prisoners reported that they feel safe within HMP Low Moss”.
But Scottish Prison Service (SPS) bosses have been urged to draw up a national protocol for dealing with so-called dirty protests.
At the time inspectors visited the prison - which opened in 2012 - there was a “particular concern” about two cells being occupied by one prisoner who was conducting such a protest by covering the walls of his cell in excrement and piling up waste food.
The prisoner was being switched between the cells to allow them to be deep-cleaned, but repeated cleaning meant these required to be re-plastered and re-decorated “as a matter of urgency”.
Inspectors said it was “concerning to note that there is no one, national, recognised protocol or standard operating procedure which deals with such situations” as they recommended the SPS “ensure that a national protocol for dealing with prisoners on dirty protests is designed and implemented across the estate”.
Concerns about the dispensing of the heroin substitute methadone were also raised in the report, which said “the average time for administering methadone is one minute per patient”.
It stated: “This does not constitute good prescribing practice and should be reviewed. This is a weakness.”
While the report made 41 recommendations, it also highlighted a number of areas of good practice.
The report said that for the jail to be “functioning well given it has only been up and running for just over a year is a considerable achievement”, adding: “It is a safe prison, a statement which should not be underestimated given that this is a brand new prison with no existing culture to rely on.”
Relationships between staff and prisoners were said to be good, and inspectors also praised the visiting facilities, particularly those for children visiting their fathers.
These dedicated children’s visits were said to “encourage and develop positive parenting skills”, with the report recommending this approach be “replicated where appropriate across the Scottish Prison Service”.
Low Moss also aims to provide prisoners with 35 hours of purposeful activity - such as work or education - a week, with inspectors saying: “Whilst this is not delivered for all prisoners, it is the highest level within SPS public sector prisons of purposeful activity achieved. This is to be commended.”
Mr Strang said: “This report is positive and I am particularly impressed with the links that have been fostered with local groups and the community.
“Access to purposeful activity and visits also deserve to be singled out for praise. A clear positive culture and can-do attitude has been created and bought into by both staff and managers.
“This has all been achieved in a relatively short time and is testimony to the vision and ethos of the management team and staff. I congratulate the governor and his team on what has been achieved to date.”
A Scottish Prison Service spokesman said: “SPS welcomes this report which the Chief Inspector of Prisons himself described as “good and positive”. We will consider and respond to all the recommendations contained in the report.”
He stressed: “SPS does not tolerate any acts of violence and procedures exist to reduce such risk to a minimum. Where appropriate, the circumstances are reported to the police for action.”