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Last Updated: Wednesday, 9 March, 2005, 08:39 GMT
Private prison failings exposed
Steve Allen
Steve Allen worked for Premier Custodial Group for four months
Three staff at a private prison in Scotland have been suspended from normal duties after an undercover investigation by the BBC.

The investigation for Prison Undercover - the Real Story reveals that staff shortages compromise prisoner and guard safety, a blind eye is turned to drug and alcohol abuse, and despite vulnerable prisoners killing themselves, basic suicide watches still go ignored.

A BBC reporter, working as a prison officer, was inside HMP Kilmarnock for four months and filmed evidence of several officers falsifying paperwork to show that suicide watches had been undertaken when they had not. Paperwork was even completed in advance.

Premier Custodial Group said it ran Kilmarnock Prison safely and well but it took the claims very seriously.

Relatives' anger

Former Scottish Chief Inspector of Prisons Clive Fairweather tells the programme that the falsification of suicide watch logs is "totally unacceptable" and "criminal behaviour".

He added:" I think if you produced the evidence you have done I would mount an immediate inspection."

Seven people have taken their lives at Kilmarnock, run by the Premier Custodial Group, since it opened in 1999 and the practice of falsifying documents in the past has already been highlighted at a fatal accident inquiry, the Scottish equivalent of an inquest.

One officer, who trains new recruits, tells the BBC's undercover reporter Steve Allen the truth about prisoners deemed suicide risks: "I can tell you straight they aren't checked all the time."

The revelations have angered relatives of prisoners who have killed themselves at the prison.

We are committed to ensuring that people in our care are in a safe and secure environment and are treated with respect and dignity
Premier Custodial Group

Myra Mulholland, whose brother Gordon, hanged himself at Kilmarnock in April 2003 when he was 43, says: "I think it's disgusting because it's not just a record that you are falsifying.

"It's people's lives you are playing with. People could die as a result of this - my brother did."

Premier Custodial Group has launched an investigation into the programme's allegations. Three members of staff have been suspended from their normal duties pending the result.

Premier says there has not been a suicide at Kilmarnock for two years and it takes allegations of staff not following procedure very seriously. Staff and prisoner relationships are good, which they say is supported by independent assessments.

"We are committed to ensuring that people in our care are in a safe and secure environment and are treated with respect and dignity," said a Premier spokesman.

The Scottish Prison Service (SPS) said it was difficult to comment on a programme it had not seen.

Management don't seem to appreciate just how difficult the job is for a prison officer, especially when they are left in a very vulnerable position
Derek Turner
Prison Officers' Association

But a spokesman added: "If there has been any impropriety on the part of staff or if procedures have not been followed properly then the Scottish Prison Service are confident that Premier Custodial Services would take appropriate action.

"Obviously SPS will investigate any issues as appropriate."

The Scottish Prison Officers' Association has called for the prison to be returned to the public sector.

Scottish secretary Derek Turner said the union had been making similar accusations since the jail opened.

"It seems to me that they don't have very many controls in place to monitor what is actually happening on the shop floor.

"Management don't seem to appreciate just how difficult the job is for a prison officer, especially when they are left in a very vulnerable position.

"It would seem that in those circumstances it must be very difficult to deliver any offending behaviour programmes."


Prison Undercover - The Real Story: BBC ONE, Wednesday 9 March, 2005 at 2100 GMT.


SEE ALSO:
Prison Undercover
04 Mar 05 |  Real Story


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