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Monday, 19 March, 2001, 17:54 GMT
Morale theory to prison violence
Prison officer
There is concern over prison officers' morale
A spate of violent incidents in Scotland's jails could be due to poor morale among prison officers, according to union officials.

The Prison Officers' Association Scotland (POAS) has warned that staff morale has reached a dangerously low level in the wake of prison closures, privatisation and the ongoing estates review.

The warning came after incidents at six different jails in the past 10 days.

The Scottish Prison Service said that a prisoner was taken to hospital after being assaulted by six other inmates at Kilmarnock, Scotland's only private jail.

Prison officer
The SPOAS is calling for action
And on two occasions prison staff were slashed with makeshift weapons at Glenochil prison, Stirlingshire, which saw five violent incidents in two days.

On Saturday, 13 young offenders barricaded themselves in a cell at Edinburgh Prison and started a fire in a yard in an incident which lasted four hours.

The Scottish Prison Service (SPS) is also investigating incidents at Perth, Aberdeen and Polmont Young Offenders' Institution.

POAS spokesman Jim Dawson said the problems were a result of "management imposing a new tending system" and "general uncertainty".

Glenochil prison
Glenochil: Five violent incidents in two days
Mr Dawson said: "We hope that these are isolated incidents and they are not going to snowball.

"We have a lot of inexperienced staff and staff shortages in the prison service.

"Prisoners are able to sense the low morale and take advantage of it."

He added that prison officers at Scotland's 17 jails were currently pressing for the Scottish Parliament to take into account their views on the Scottish Prison Service's estates review when it is presented to Justice Minister Jim Wallace.

"At the moment we are involved in lobbying MSPs to ask ministers to intervene to ensure we get a fair and just outcome," Mr Dawson said.

A spokesman for the SPS confirmed that the incidents of the last 10 days were being investigated, but stressed there was no wider cause for concern.

All-time low

"We have incidents in prisons from time to time for obvious reasons - it's in the nature of the job," the spokesman said.

"There has been a number of incidents in recent days and we are concerned about them individually, but we are not in the business of adding fuel to the fire."

In his annual report last year Scotland's chief inspector of prisons said morale among staff was at an all-time low.

Clive Fairweather said: "The ongoing estates review is creating an atmosphere of considerable uncertainty amongst prisoners and staff throughout Scotland."

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