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"The morale, according to the chief inspector of prisons, is the lowest he's seen in six years in the job"
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Thursday, 31 August, 2000, 15:15 GMT 16:15 UK
Prisons morale at 'all-time low'
Clive Fairweather prisons graphic
Clive Fairweather is concerned about morale
Scotland's chief inspector of prisons says morale among staff is at an all-time low.

In his annual report, Clive Fairweather describes the Scottish Prison Service's strategy as "perhaps the most radical reshaping of Scottish prisons in living memory."

Management announced last November the closure of two prisons and the mothballing of a special unit, involving the loss of a total of 374 prison jobs.

The move followed the Scottish Executive's decision to "claw back" some 13m from the prisons budget to fund the creation of the Scottish Drugs Enforcement Agency.

Prison officer
Officers have already taken wildcat action
Mr Fairweather said: "The most fundamental issue facing the Scottish Prison Service is the size of the prison population and matching the numbers with available accommodation.

"If there is a significant increase, the question will be how a much-reduced prison estate will cope whilst new accommodation is planned and then built.

"Meanwhile, the ongoing estates review is creating an atmosphere of considerable uncertainty amongst prisoners and staff throughout Scotland.

"In addition, the continuing rise in the number of lifers and prisoners serving longer sentences seems to indicate that there will be a requirement for more prisoner accommodation to be built in the not too distant future."

Other key points from Mr Fairweather's report:

  • Drugs - 70% of prisoners were testing positive on admission where testing takes place but there had been a reduction in positive tests for cannabis.

    The report supports the development of complementary strategies in the community on drugs, including the pilot schemes on Drug Treatment and Testing Orders and backs the concept of drug courts.

  • Deaths/assaults - Scotland's prisons have one of the highest levels of deaths in custody (including suicide) on record, probably connected to drug or alcohol addiction in the community.

    But, there has been an "encouraging" reduction in the number of serious assaults taking place in prisons and especially at HMP Low Moss.

  • Population/accommodation - Pockets of over-crowding are likely to continue for the foreseeable future, particularly in HMP Barlinnie.

  • Remand prisoners - There has been continued improvement in the conditions for remand prisoners which are, in general, now more acceptable, especially at HMP Edinburgh, HMP Inverness and HMP Kilmarnock.

  • Female/young offenders - There is concern at the continued number of women in custody, particularly those on remand.

    The need continues for an integrated approach to the management of young offenders.

  • HMP Kilmarnock - The prison has achieved a great deal in its first year with a large number of examples of best practice observed, but staff may not yet have the experience or confidence to challenge prisoners at every opportunity.

    Justice Minister Jim Wallace Mr Fairweather's report showed that the Scottish Prison Service was performing well.

    "In a period of major change, the fact that the chief inspector has on this occasion made no formal recommendations is a real achievement," he added.

    Penninghame Prison
    Penninghame: One of the closed prisons
    The prisoners' support group Sacro said it was "dismayed" at the prospect of new prisons having to be built to house the ever-growing population.

    The Scottish National Party's justice spokeswoman Roseanna Cunningham said: "This report continues the kind of damning indictment of Scotland's prisons that we have seen year after year."

    The Conservatives' justice spokesman Phil Gallie added: "The Scottish Prison Service is in complete meltdown and the pathetic attempts by Jim Wallace to pretend otherwise have finally been totally discredited."

    The prisoners' support group Sacro said it was "dismayed" at the prospect of new jails being built to house the growing number of inmates.

    "This should not be necessary if, as the justice minister himself recognises, those who should not be in prison are sentenced instead to challenging programmes in the community," the group added.

    They are to be balloted on industrial action in a dispute over plans to introduce new work patterns.

    Their anger resulted in wildcat action at several jails around Scotland on 2 August.

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    End of an era for jail
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    17 Nov 99 | Scotland
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