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Monday, 29 April, 2002, 14:18 GMT 15:18 UK
Jail campaigners welcome report
Officer at Peterhead
Staff are concerned about public safety if the jail closes
Campaigners opposed to the closure of Peterhead Prison have seized upon a report by Scotland's chief inspector of prisons, which praises the jail's record.

Clive Fairweather, who visited the jail just days after its planned closure was announced, said the buildings were well maintained and called for detailed costings before it is written off.

The prison houses about half of Scotland's sex offenders.

Mr Fairweather praised its record on re-offending rates and said staff had raised concerns about public safety if it does close.

Banff and Buchan MP Alex Salmond
Alex Salmond welcomed the leaked report

Campaigners said the report vindicates their opposition to the planned closure, which forms part of a Scottish Executive overhaul of the prison estate.

The local MP, Alex Salmond of the Scottish National Party, said it added weight to the argument that closure would be an act of "wanton vandalism".

He said the report was a powerful document which would be a major boost to staff morale and called on Justice Minister Jim Wallace to heed Mr Fairweather's advice.

Mr Salmond said: "It's interesting that every independent expert who has looked at this situation has come down firmly in favour of Peterhead.

'Ammunition'

"So that is gathering strength for the campaign for Peterhead and in contrast Jim Wallace and his advisers are looking very isolated indeed.

"We think we're going to win and this chief inspector's report is important ammunition in that fight."

The report has also been welcomed by the Scottish Prison Officers Association (SPOA).

Derek Turner
Derek Turner said reports should be listened to

The SPOA's Derek Turner said: "I think it is an embarrassment to the minister, but I have to say it's not the first time he has been told this and I wish somebody would start listening to the various reports on the Peterhead situation."

The Scottish Executive said it was still consulting and an expert group would ensure there was no risk to public safety if the jail does shut.

Mr Wallace said: "We are actually setting up a working group, which will have some independent people on it to actually have a look at the management of sex offenders.

"So all that information, including the interim report from Peterhead, will form part of the general information that we are considering in this consultation period."

'Well maintained'

Mr Wallace, when announcing the closure plan, said the jail population was rising, existing accommodation was unacceptable and refurbishing the prison would not give value for money.

The report his plans are based on praised the rehabilitation work at Peterhead, which houses half of about 600 sex offenders in Scotland.

Peterhead block
The buildings are "well maintained"

But he argued that accommodation was poor and its location made it difficult for many relatives to visit inmates.

The Victorian-period prison is scheduled to shut within three years, with the sex offenders' programme continued at jails in the central belt.

Mr Fairweather's report was leaked to a Sunday newspaper and apparently argues that while parts of the prison require upgrading, the buildings are "well maintained and in good physical condition".

It also claims that the need for 'slopping out' could be avoided by changing shift patterns at the jail to allow inmates access to toilets.

See also:

29 Apr 02 | Scotland
Jail trouble talks go on
23 Apr 02 | Scotland
Prisoners join battle to save jail
21 Mar 02 | Scotland
Private prisons plan confirmed
21 Mar 02 | Scotland
Peterhead Prison: Granite fortress
17 Mar 02 | Scotland
Peterhead Prison faces closure
21 Aug 01 | Scotland
Sex offenders 'going untreated'
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