New standards for Scots prisons to be introduced

NEW standards have been announced for inspecting and monitoring Scotland’s prisons.

Glasgow's Barlinnie prison. Picture: Robert Perry
Glasgow's Barlinnie prison. Picture: Robert Perry
Glasgow's Barlinnie prison. Picture: Robert Perry

The guidelines, which are split into ten areas including “decency” and “humane exercise of authority”, will be put into practice for the first time next week in an inspection of Glenochil prison in Clackmannanshire.

HM Chief Inspector of Prisons for Scotland (HMIPS), David Strang, said the standards had been drawn up with reference to law, international guidance and recent research findings.

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The areas include lawful and transparent custody; decency; effective, courteous and humane exercise of authority and transitions from custody to life in the community.

Mr Strang said: “I am pleased to introduce these standards. They represent a complete revision of the previous standards which were published in 2006, to reflect changes in legislation and practice.

“These standards and the new evaluation system will make it clear, at a glance, the assessment awarded by HMIPS to the various standards and quality indicators”.

In the foreword of his report published yesterday, Mr Strang said scrutiny of prisons had to be conducted “effectively” to increase public confidence in the system.

“These published standards have been drawn up through a process of extensive consultation,” he wrote. “They are referenced against relevant law, international and professional guidance, policy and research findings.

“The standards articulate what is expected of a well-run prison and contain very clear statements identifying what is important and what will be monitored and inspected. They are designed to assist those who are running prisons and to encourage openness and transparency in the scrutiny of places of detention.”

A Scottish Prison Service spokesman said: “We welcome the clarity these standards provide. The great beauty of them is that they make very clear exactly what’s expected when a prison is inspected and the level of performance that’s expected.”

Last year, in his annual report Mr Strang called for more inmates to be released early and electronically tagged to cut Scotland’s jail population.

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The former chief constable of Lothian & Borders Police said there was potential for increased use of home detention curfews, with evidence showing they also helped reduce the risk of re-offending.

Mr Strang is also currently conducting a review of solitary confinement in Scotland’s prisons and will look at whether there is a justification for its increased use.

In his first annual report since taking up the post, Mr Strang said the size of the prison population was a “cause for ­concern”.

The Scottish Government is currently consulting on plans which will see sex offenders and anyone sentenced to four years or more no longer eligible for automatic early release two-thirds of the way through their sentence.

The Prisoners (Control of Release) (Scotland) Bill will end the current system of early release for anyone serving more than four years.