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Reevel Alderson reports
"The report says Kilmarnock provides examples that others could adopt"
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Thursday, 20 July, 2000, 13:41 GMT 14:41 UK
Staff rate concern at private jail
Kilmarnock wing
Facilities are good at the jail
The chief inspector of prisons has expressed concern at the turnover of staff at Scotland's only privately-run prison.

Clive Fairweather said Kilmarnock Prison in Ayrshire, which opened in March 1999, had made a "promising start".

However, he noted that staff and inmates had complained about staffing levels.

The prison, which underwent a detailed inspection in March, received a generally positive report and Mr Fairweather suggested that it could provide some lessons for state-run prisons.

Clive Fairweather
Clive Fairweather: "Promising start"
The report was expected to be viewed as crucial for Scottish Executive ministers who are considering whether or not more private prisons should be built.

Mr Fairweather said the 10-day inspection by a large team of experts found much that was positive, with staff, many of whom had no previous prison experience, earning praise.

He said: "The prison has settled quickly due to a combination of sound preparation, co-operation with other parts of the Scottish Prison Service and a great deal of hard work and determination by management and staff.

"The quality of life for prisoners in HMP Kilmarnock, including those on remand and on protection, is high."

Mr Fairweather said the prison still compared unfavourably with other Scottish institutions, but he had borne in mind that it had just completed its first year of operation.

'Secrecy' attacked

He expressed concern at the turnover of staff employed by Premier Prisons since the opening, a lack of co-ordination in the jail's anti-drugs strategy and a "high level" of assaults on staff.

He added: ""Nevertheless, a number of important lessons can be learned from the way in which this prison operates and we found a large number of examples of best practice, which may reflect a more focused and flexible approach."

But Mr Fairweather faced problems when drawing up his report because staffing levels were regarded by the jail's operators as secret information.

Prisoners at work inside the jail
Prisoners at work inside the jail
The Scottish National Party's deputy justice spokesman, Michael Matheson MSP, said: "The cloak of commercial confidentiality that is being thrown around Kilmarnock Prison is totally unacceptable.

"The major criticism of the prison concerns staffing levels, and we need to have the information.

There has to be a level playing field, with the same level of information reported for all prisons in Scotland."

The Tories' home affairs spokesman, Phil Gallie MSP, said: "One of the primary functions of Government it to keep ordinary law abiding citizens safe.

"However this executive has seriously undermined the safety of the law abiding majority through its perverse prison policy."

Mr Fairweather said it was likely that new prisons would be required in the near future, but he would not be drawn on whether they should be provided by the private sector.

Opposition MSPs and prison unions have stated that ministers would not sanction spending public money on building a new jail so a privatised option was more likely.

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See also:

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Boy held in adult jail
15 Feb 00 | Scotland
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23 Sep 99 | Scotland
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27 Apr 99 | UK
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