Page last updated at 23:09 GMT, Wednesday, 16 September 2009 00:09 UK

Prison chief 'concerned' by drugs

Hugh Monro - Scotland's chief inspector of prisons
Brigadier Hugh Monro said drugs could only make prisons less safe

Scotland's new chief inspector of prisons has set out the "issues of concern" he will be concentrating on.

Brigadier Hugh Monro said he had visited all of Scotland's prisons since he took over the post in July.

He highlighted the issue of the treatment of addicts and illegal drugs getting into prison as major concerns.

Brig Monro also said mental health issues and the release of prisoners back into the community were areas he would like to investigate.

Posing questions

The new chief inspector said he was looking forward to a "busy and intriguing job".

He said he wanted to ensure that the service was ready for the changes which would come with "community-based" alternatives to prison, future sentencing patterns and how offending behaviour can be prevented.

Brig Monro said he was "posing questions at this stage" rather than proposing answers to problems in the prison system.

The brigadier, who was in the Army for 36 years, said the affect of drugs in prison had various strands.

"How do prisons deal with someone who has a drug problem?" he said.

"How is the drug culture imported into prisons? Linked to this is the specific issue of illegal drugs entering prisons. This must make prisons less safe and secure."

I have met many young prisoners who are second and third generation offenders
Brig Hugh Monro

He added: "In terms of addiction I will also be concentrating on the Scottish Prison Service policy on the use of prescribed drugs and, in particular, methadone."

Brig Monro said he was also interested in measures put in place to deal with the mental health problems of inmates.

He said he would be looking at efforts to help prisoners with learning difficulties and conditions such as autism.

"I will be assessing how prisoners are prepared for release back into communities," he said.

"This will include how the Open Estate is used. This is directly related to the debate about reducing offending and reoffending.

"I have met many young prisoners who are second and third generation offenders.

"The question is - will future prison inspectors be doing the same in 10 or 15 years time with those youngsters who are currently aged four or five today?

"Because, make no mistake, once people are in the prison system the likelihood is they will be there for much of their useful lives."

Prison estate

The brigadier said he had been impressed by most of what he had seen during his initial prison visits.

He praised the new building which was taking place within the prison estate.

However, he said he would monitor the conditions in older prisons such as Peterhead and Aberdeen.

Both are due to be replaced but he wanted to ensure conditions did not deteriorate in the meantime.

The chief inspector said how prison officers were trained related directly to how prisoners were treated.

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