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Last Updated: Wednesday, 28 February 2007, 14:28 GMT
Prisoners demand their own pants
Barlinnie prisoners want to wear their own underwear
Inmates of Scotland's largest prison have complained of being forced to wear dirty and ill-fitting underwear, according to a report.

Barlinnie prisoners told inspectors that they were given prison-issue underpants, socks and vests which could be stained or not the right size.

The overcrowded Glasgow jail is the only one in Scotland to ban prisoners from wearing their own clothing.

Chief inspector of prisons, Dr Andrew McLellan, said the issue was a concern.

"You have to take what you are given," he added. "The underwear might fit or it might not, it might be unstained or not.

Concerns raised

"I think it's a very important thing if you don't get a chance to wear you own underwear. We have seen underwear which has been washed but I wouldn't call it clean."

The inspector called for personal underwear to be issued to individual inmates and suggested that prisoners were also allowed to wear their own clothes on occasions such as family visits.

Mr McLellan also raised concerns that too many fine defaulters were being sent to the prison, despite a Scottish Executive pledge to reduce the practice.

Andrew McLellan
The underwear might fit or it might not, it might be unstained or not
Andrew McLellan
HMIP chief inspector

Prison inspectors found more than 10% of inmates at Barlinnie were serving time for failing to pay fines of less than 300.

Barlinnie, in greater Glasgow, is regularly more than 40% overcrowded, housing more than 1,400 inmates compared to its design limit of 1,018.

But under new plans defaulter numbers in Scotland's jails could be cut by 3,000 per annum.

Mr McLellan said it cost more to keep a defaulter in jail than the amount of the fine.

He also criticised race relations in the prison. Barlinnie has 41 ethnic minority prisoners - the most in Scotland - however inspectors found that the Race Relations Monitoring Group failed to meet often enough.

The report also highlighted improvements at the prison, including the ending of slopping out and the upgrading of living and working conditions.

Viable alternatives

The First Night Centre aimed at new prisoners was particularly praised as inspectors said the experience of arriving at Barlinnie for the first time could be "terrifying".

A Scottish Executive spokesman said it recognised that prison was "not necessarily the best place for someone who has failed to pay a fine" and insisted it was working hard to find alternatives, including supervised attendance orders.

"What's more, we have introduced summary justice reforms that will see the creation of fines enforcement officers," he added.

Barlinnie was found to have held 1,525 inmates on one occasion between April and July 2006, with remand prisoners suffering worst from overcrowding.

Barlinnie governor Bill McKinlay

Last week Justice Minister Cathy Jamieson said she was keeping prison numbers under review and that two new prisons were in the pipeline.

Barlinnie governor Bill McKinlay said a working group had been set up to consider complaints over prison underwear.

Kenny MacAskill MSP, SNP justice spokesman, said: "It's time for a credible and coherent prison policy that locks up dangerous offenders and deals with petty offenders in the community.

"Overcrowded prisons is a dangerous situation that threatens prison security and community safety."

The Scottish Greens said ministers must tackle the causes of crime to tackle prison overcrowding.

Patrick Harvie MSP, Scottish Greens' speaker on justice, said, "Labour and Liberal Democrats have scrapped successful initiatives such as Airborne that really reduced youth offending - this executive may be tough on crime but it isn't nearly tough enough on the causes of crime.

"This must change if communities in Scotland are to become safer."

The pants could be stained or the wrong size

Underwear becomes a prison issue
28 Feb 07 |  Scotland
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09 Feb 07 |  Edinburgh and East
Fine defaulters to 'escape' jail
20 Dec 06 |  Scotland
Jail overcrowding 'being tackled'
01 Nov 06 |  Scotland
Prison numbers hit 'record high'
25 Aug 06 |  Scotland
Inmates 'still live in WW2 dorms'
15 Jul 04 |  Scotland


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