Page last updated at 23:49 GMT, Tuesday, 1 April 2008 00:49 UK

Private jail 'cramped but safer'

Kilmarnock Prison
Scotland's only private prison opened its doors in 1999

Scotland's only private jail is now one of the most overcrowded prisons in the country, a watchdog has claimed.

The chief inspector of prisons said Kilmarnock Prison's 500 cells housed 635 inmates. He said the cells were cramped, increasing the risk of fire.

But Dr Andrew McLellan's report found that despite the overcrowding, the jail was safer than it once was.

The prison made headlines last week when an inmate who murdered a fellow prisoner was jailed for life.

David Martin, 20, was captured on CCTV as he kicked and stamped on Michael Cameron in June 2006.

A prison officer witnessed the murder but did not intervene until re-enforcements arrived.

Dr McLellan said despite the "very serious" incident in June 2006, prisoner-on-prisoner violence had shown a steep decline since 2003.

He also said there had been no serious violence against members of staff since June 2004.

Dr McLellan carried out the latest inspection at the prison in October 2007.

Dr Andrew McLellan
Dr McLellan said too few inmates had access to the prison workshops

On the previous inspection, in 2004, a total of 568 prisoners were housed there, but that number has now jumped to 635.

The latest report claimed it was now the fourth most overcrowded jail in Scotland.

It also noted that the accommodation was beginning to show signs of wear and tear, and some prisoners were now being locked up for longer in their cells during the daytime.

"There can be no doubt that the reduction of time out of cell in recent times in Kilmarnock is a consequence, in part at least, of overcrowding," the report said.

"It always is."

Dr McLellan said the condition of the cells increased the risk of fire.

"The cells in general are small, cramped and have too much in them," he said.

He also concluded that too few inmates had access to the prison workshops.

Addressing prison overcrowding is an issue for the Scottish Prison Service
Scott McNairn
Director HMP Kilmarnock

"Prisoners having not nearly enough useful opportunities to do rehabilitating work is a classic mark of an overcrowded prison," he added.

The report warned that a system intended to reduce reoffending, "integrated case management" (ICM) had not been well developed at Kilmarnock.

It concluded that unless the system improved, prisoners would not be properly prepared for release.

"On the surface, ICM appears to be ticking all the boxes," said the report.

"Closer examination, however, shows that the system is not joined up."

Among a list of recommendations, it called for ways to be found for allowing prisoners more time out of their cells, for inmates to be processed more quickly and efficiently through the jail's reception and for more attention to be paid to the ICM process.

Full capacity

Kilmarnock's prison director, Scott McNairn, said: "The inspectorate commended the way our staff interact positively with prisoners and said this had led to a reduction in violence and a safer prison overall.

"The report refers to the issue of overcrowding.

"HMP Kilmarnock currently has 500 cells and a contract with the Scottish Prison Service to hold up to 692 prisoners."

He said the prison had never reached its full capacity in its 11-year history.

"My focus is on operating the safe, well run prison which the inspectors have recognised in their report," Mr McNairn said.

"Addressing prison overcrowding is an issue for the Scottish Prison Service."

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