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Last Updated: Thursday, 22 November 2007, 00:23 GMT
Concern over prison overcrowding
Prison officer
Prison numbers hit record levels earlier this year
Scotland's jails are more overcrowded than ever, according to the chief inspector of prisons.

In his annual report, Dr Andrew McLellan said the relentless rise in numbers meant many inmates were locked in cells all day with little to do.

He also said it was a scandal that pregnant women prisoners were still handcuffed almost to point of birth.

Dr McLellan was disappointed children under 16 were still held in prisons. The number held rose to 26 last year.

Statistics published earlier this month showed the prison population hit an all-time high in August, with 7,497 people behind bars.

Over and over again in my daily work I find misfits, people who just can't cope, drifting into prison because there's nowhere else for them
Dr Andrew McLellan
Chief inspector of prisons

Aberdeen, Inverness and Glasgow's Barlinnie prisons were named as the worst hit. Barlinnie was built for 1,000 inmates and currently holds 1,500, according to Dr McLellan.

Speaking at the launch of the report, Dr McLellan said it "tells a sad old story about overcrowding worse then ever".

He stressed the current prison building programme - with the exception of Castle Huntly and Cornton Vale - will do "almost nothing" to solve the problem.

The inspector added: "Over and over again in my daily work I find misfits, people who just can't cope, drifting into prison because there's nowhere else for them."

The 2006-7 report also highlighted the rise of mental illness among prisoners and the lack of useful work for inmates.

'Useful work'

Dr McLellan said: "So gloomy am I about the rise of mental illness in Scotland's prisons, I have engaged in the last few weeks on a special thematic inspection of the prevalence of mental illness."

The inspector described the improvement in living conditions in prisons over the last four years as "remarkable" and praised the peaceful atmosphere of jails but said too many inmates were spending their days in bed.

In one prison he visited just a third were doing any work, and often for only a few hours a day.

Andrew McLellan
Dr McLellan is concerned many prisoners spend all day in bed

He said: "Report after report on prisons I have published this year has said there's hardly any useful work for prisoners today.

"As a result, what prisoners do in many jails up and down the land, many of them spend the day lying in bed.

"Stop Mrs Glasgow in the street and ask her what she wants prisoners to be doing and she will not say 'I want them to be lying in bed watching Lorraine Kelly on daytime television'. She will say I think they should be working."

Dr McLellan also repeated his call for the abolition of the imprisonment of children, calling the increase in the number of under-16s in prisons and young offenders' institutes "disgraceful".

The inspector, who has 18 months left in the post, said: "I will count that time a failure unless I am able to say at the end of my spell as chief inspector that irreversible steps have been taken to end the imprisonment of under-16s in Scotland."

The report praised improvements in the relationship between prisoners and staff, the near eradication of "slopping out" and a reduction in the number of suicides from 17 to nine in the past 10 years.

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