Scotland should be ‘proud’ of its prisons

Delivering his annual report, David Strang highlighted the quality of relationships between inmates and staff. Picture: TSPL
Delivering his annual report, David Strang highlighted the quality of relationships between inmates and staff. Picture: TSPL
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The outgoing chief inspector of prisons has said Scotland should be “proud” of its jails after finding them to be stable and secure.

Delivering his annual report, David Strang highlighted the quality of relationships between inmates and staff.

But he said concerns remained over the increase in the use of psychoactive substances and the number of prisoners being held on remand.

The situation in Scotland sits in stark contrast to England where a number of prisons have been put in “special measures” due to growing levels of violence.

Mr Strang, a former chief constable of Lothian and Borders Police, was succeeded earlier this year by Wendy Sinclair-Gieben, but most of the inspection work referred to in the annual report took place while he was in post.

He said: “We should never take for granted the good order that is maintained in Scotland’s prisons and that they are in generally stable and secure environments.

“It is a fundamental requirement of a well-run prison that people who live and work there should feel confident in its stability and order. Across the prisons we have inspected this year, prisoners have generally told me that they feel safe.”

There are currently around 7,800 people in custody in Scotland, with the imprisonment rate among the highest in Europe.

Mr Strang said two of the prisons visited in the past year, HMPs Inverness and Greenock, did not meet modern standards despite efforts to maintain their cleanliness and upkeep.

And he said prisoners and staff across the prison system had expressed anxiety about growing levels of “unpredictable behaviour” associated with the taking of illegal psychoactive substances.

Mr Strang said the Scottish Prison Service (SPS) was reviewing the management of the overall prison population, with growing numbers of older inmates and those convicted of sexual offences.

While the overall number of prisoners being held on remand while awaiting trial has fallen in the past year to about 15 per cent of the overall prison population, Mr Strang said he remained concerned about the numbers.

He added: “Many of the people held on remand do not receive a custodial sentence. In some cases it appears that remand is used as a heavy-handed way to ensure that the accused attends court for trial.”

Last week inspectors in England triggered an “urgent notification” process in relation to HMP Bedford after finding inmates had effectively taken control of the prison. The jail is one of a number south of the Border which have previously been put into “special measures” by the government.

Scotland’s new chief inspector of prisons, Wendy Sinclair-Gieben, said: “In my tenure I hope to build on the excellent work of the previous inspectors and continue to provide valuable insights into the conditions and treatment of people in custody, as well as highlighting much of the excellent work that already exists.”