Page last updated at 23:39 GMT, Tuesday, 23 September 2008 00:39 UK

Sex offender situation 'alarming'

Dumfries Prison
The report says there is little the prison can do to solve some problems

An inspection of a Scottish prison has said it can "do very little" to tackle some of its most serious problems.

HM Chief Inspector Dr Andrew McLellan said certain issues at Dumfries Prison were "almost impossible" to address.

Among his concerns were overcrowding and the "alarming" difficulty in encouraging convicted sex offenders to change their behaviour patterns.

However, he praised the site's safety record, access to learning and the respect shown by staff to prisoners.

Dr McLellan said: "Dumfries is really two prisons within one wall: one part is a local prison for (mostly) short-term male offenders and young males on remand.

Complex building design causes problems
Area housing prisoners on protection is cramped and dark
Keeping remand and sex offenders separate uses up management time
Prison is safe with no suicides since last visit
Prisoners are treated with respect
Arrangements for family contact are "reasonably good"
Prisoners have access to learning opportunities

"The other part is a prison for long-term male adults convicted of sex offences who do not admit their guilt.

"For reasons of safety these two groups must be kept completely separate."

He said this meant a great deal of management time was spent ensuring this happened.

"The design of the buildings is also extremely complex and raises concerns - it is not easy for staff to reach all parts of the prison quickly in cases of emergency.

"The area housing protection prisoners is particularly cramped and oppressive."

He raised concerns about the number of people being detained under immigration legislation who were being held after completion of their sentence.

"They are not released on completion because they are subject to further procedure by the immigration authorities," he said.

'Specialised needs'

Dr McLellan also said it was difficult to deal with elderly prisoners.

"Some of these men show the signs of advancing age," he said.

"They have been convicted of crimes but it is almost impossible for any prison to meet their specialised needs."

The Dumfries site shares problems in common with other prisons across the country.

"Each year there is less provision for prisoners to go to work and more time spent by prisoners locked in their cells," he said.


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"Day after day spent locked in a cell with a stranger is not a good way to prepare prisoners to live useful and crime-free lives."

Dr McLellan said there were additional problems with preparing sex offenders for release.

"In Dumfries, the situation is particularly alarming," he said.

"Since those prisoners, unlike most in Peterhead, do not admit their guilt they do not prepare for their release in programmes designed to address their offending behaviour.

"So, when their sentence is ended it is quite possible that nothing will have been done in prison to encourage them to change anything."

However, he praised the prison for providing safe surroundings for its inmates.

'Very positive'

"This is a considerable achievement in terms of the limitations of the buildings and the mix of prisoners population," said Dr McLellan.

"It is also a very clean place.

"Relationships between prisoners and staff are good; although the increasing time which prisoners spend in cell and the reduction of staff numbers makes these good relationships more difficult to maintain."

Dumfries prison governor Martyn Bettel said he welcomed the overall findings.

"I think it was a very positive report all in all," he said.

"There are areas where Dumfries can improve and should improve but I think the report has recognised the pressures the prison and the prison staff are under."

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