Management at Kilmarnock Prison should take "urgent steps" to provide better numeracy and literacy courses for inmates, a report has said.
Andrew McLellan at Kilmarnock Prison to release his report
The chief inspector of prisons, Dr Andrew McLellan, also said that staffing at Scotland's only private jail remained a matter of concern.
However, he observed that staff treated prisoners with respect.
The director of Kilmarnock Prison, Nick Cameron, welcomed the report calling it "fair and constructive".
Last month three members of staff at the Ayrshire prison, which is run by Premier Custodial Services, were removed from normal duties after claims of malpractice in an undercover BBC investigation.
Prison chiefs launched an inquiry into allegations that staff turned a blind eye to heroin abuse and failed to monitor vulnerable inmates despite six suicides at the jail in the past five years.
Premier Prison Services also hit the headlines recently after it was blamed at a fatal accident inquiry for the suicide of a vulnerable prisoner in the jail.
Dr McLellan visited Kilmarnock Prison in October last year and found staffing levels to be 80 to 120 officers lower than at Edinburgh or Perth prisons, to which it is often compared in terms of size and function.
He said in his report: "Such staffing levels affect the amount of time available to prisons staff to interact with prisoners and they seriously disadvantage prisoners who need to be taken from one part of a prison to another - eg. for education, visits - at a time when no member of staff is available to escort them."
Dr McLellan also expressed concern about the "high proportion" of inexperienced employees.
Clean and tidy
On the issue of educating offenders, Dr McLellan said: "The provision of learning is impoverished - the lack of proper provision for basic education in reading, writing and counting is very serious."
The current failure to deliver basic skills of numeracy and literacy during the day should be addressed as a "matter of urgency".
But despite his concerns, the chief inspector found there to be a good relationship between staff and prisoners.
Dr McLellan added that all inmates lived in decent accommodation and the cells were kept clean and tidy.
He also noted the prison had improved since questions were raised about its safety in 2002 and said the number of assaults had "reduced considerably".
He made five recommendations in his conclusion:
- More activities to be made available to prisoners
- Inmates to be escorted within the prison more efficiently
- Inductions to be carried out consistently with all prisoners
- Reform of the overall senior management system to integrate the various elements more closely
- Visiting staff who work alone to hold consultations in an area that can be observed by other staff.
After studying the report, Mr Cameron said: "It is encouraging that the report singles out 10 areas of good practice as being particularly worthy of praise.
"The chief inspector makes five key recommendations on areas that can be improved and we will act upon those recommendations immediately.
"The progress made within the prison is a tribute to the enthusiasm and dedication of my staff."
Dr McLellan's report was described as "fair" by management
The BBC documentary filmed officers turning a blind eye to drugs and alcohol use. It also found some prisoners on suicide watch were not checked regularly.
The Prison Officers Association Scotland, which is not recognised at Kilmarnock, said the BBC's Real Story documentary "appeared to uncover significant failings" at the jail.
Last month a sheriff ruled that James Barclay, 30, was able to hang himself at Kilmarnock Prison because of the failure of guards to keep watch on the "at risk" inmate.
The remand prisoner died on 11 January, 2002, at Crosshouse Hospital, Kilmarnock, after he was found hanging in his cell the previous day.