Scottish prisoners to get personal safes in cells

Cells at the new HMP Grampian will have personal safes for inmates' belongings. Picture: TSPL
Cells at the new HMP Grampian will have personal safes for inmates' belongings. Picture: TSPL
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INMATES at Scotland’s newest prison will each be supplied with a personal safe in an attempt to prevent inter-jail theft, The Scotsman has learned.

Prison chiefs have come under fire over plans to install nearly 600 safes at HMP Grampian at a cost of around £31,000 to the taxpayer.

The £140million “super-jail” will replace the ageing Victorian HMP Peterhead and HMP Craiginches in Aberdeen. Altogether £110,000 will be made available for safes to be installed across the prison estate.

At present, most existing facilities in Scotland have lockers or locked cupboards, and the critics claimed that costly hotel-style safes are unnecessary for an environment which is intended to be secure.

HMP Grampian has been billed as unique as it will house all types of inmates including men, women and youth offenders, who will be segregated within the jail.

The design capacity is 529 with single cells having one safe in each, and double cells, of which there are 51, having two.

John Lamont MSP, the Scottish Conservative chief whip, said that prisoners should not be allowed into the population with valuable items, adding that such containers could be used to stash weapons.

“Prisoners have to surrender items of any worth when entering jail” he said.

“It’s hard to see why this would be a worthwhile use of taxpayers’ money.

“Jails seem to have a difficult enough time keeping drugs, phones and weapons out of prisoners’ hands without supplying them with secret storage space.”

The number of weapons recovered from inmates last year was 338, a five year high, working out at almost one each day. The haul included manufactured “plastic with metal blade” weapons, such as pens, toothbrushes or combs and sharpened pieces of metal, such as nails, tins or coat hangers; and 106 razor blades.

A Scottish Prison Service spokeswoman said that the safes are intended to hold personal items, including legal documents, and medication.

She added: “The purpose of the secure cabinet is to allow prisoners to store personal items safely. If this privilege is abused, staff take immediate action to investigate.”

Last year prison chiefs came under fire after the first images of HMP Grampian were unveiled, with Aberdeenshire councillor Albert Howie at the time describing the jail as looking “like a five-star hotel – with no bars on the windows”.

“A prison should be somewhere that if you’re in once, you don’t want to go back” he added.