A member of staff in Scotland’s prisons is assaulted every two days by an inmate, figures have revealed.
Information obtained by the Scottish Tories following a Freedom of Information request shows that in 2016/17 190 staff were attacked by prisoners over a year.
The figure has fallen since 2015-16 when there were 204 assaults, but it has risen since 2014-2015 when 170 staff were assaulted.
In total over the past three years, there have been a total of 564 assaults on workers across the country’s prisons. Scottish Conservative justice spokesman Liam Kerr highlighted the problem ahead of a visit to Kilmarnock Prison, where he will discuss how staff can reduce the level of assaults.
Despite the drop in attacks in the last year, Scottish Conservatives said more action was still needed to make prison officers and guards safer. Shadow justice secretary Liam Kerr said: “We know that prisons can be high-risk places for people to work. But it’s shocking that staff are being exposed to this much danger in the course of their working day.
“They do a fantastic job, a vital job, and one in which they deserve more protection.
“That’s something I’ve been raising as part of my visit to Kilmarnock. Any prisoner who’s attacked a member of staff needs to be dealt with severely, so they know the consequences of such action just simply won’t be worth it.”
The statistics came to light as report submitted to the Scottish Prison Service (SPS) identified serious problems experienced by staff and prisoners at HMP Grampian since it was opened in 2014. The report written by academics from Cambridge University was uncovered as a result of a Freedom of Information request by Lib Dem MSP Liam McArthur. Staff reported that they were “run ragged” and claimed the prison is “running on goodwill”;
In one particular wing, staff described themselves as “stressed, “stretched to the max” and “at a breaking point”;
A spokesman for the Scottish Prison Service said the prison was still in the early stage of its development and said it would take time to embed a culture that was suitable for staff and inmates. On prison violence the spokesman added that SPS staff faced difficult and sometimes challenging circumstances, but prisons are not violent places. He said: “We work very hard to make prisons as safe an environment as possible. The number of assaults has come down, but one assault is one too many.”