David Strang, Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Prisons for Scotland (HMCIPS), published his third Annual Report, for the years 2015-2016, on 26th October 2016. This was the first year of reporting on both the inspection of prisons, and the monitoring of prisons by Independent Prison Monitors (IPMs), a function which began in August 2015.
Developments noted by HMCIPS are:
Over the last year the Scottish Government has developed further its strategy for women in the criminal justice system.
The majority of prisons in Scotland were built in the last 25 years, but there remain four prisons which were built over 100 years ago, which will clearly be a challenge for the Scottish Prison Service (SPS).
- Relationships - The strategy for young people in custody was an example of good joint working between SPS at HMYOI Polmont and Education Scotland.
- Family Contact - A number of prisons have excellent Visitor Centre facilities to support the families and friends visiting people in prison. It is good to note that the Scottish Government has committed to continuing to support the development of Visitor Centres.
- Throughcare Support - In preparation for the release of prisoners nearing the end of their sentence, the Throughcare Support Officers provide valuable support to prisoners both before and after liberation, linking in with other service providers in the community.
- Education and Training - Educational opportunities leading to qualifications and vocational training and skills development help to make employment a more realistic prospect.
- Vulnerable Prisoners - HMCIPS was impressed with the levels of care shown to prisoners on their arrival in reception and their stay in the First Night Centre. Many vulnerable prisoners continue to receive longer term care throughout their sentence.
- Healthcare - The provision of good healthcare to people in prisons is a fundamental requirement of a well-run prison. Given the poor levels of health of many people in prison, the provision of healthcare in a prison setting is almost invariably challenging and demanding. Given Scotland’s commitment to tackle health inequalities, there are strong arguments why the provision of healthcare to people in prison should be a priority from an NHS perspective. Responsibility for ensuring that the healthcare needs of prisoners are met does not lie with the NHS alone; it is a joint responsibility shared with the wider prison management.
- Progression - Many long term prisoners are required to complete particular programmes before they can progress to open conditions. In many cases, there is insufficient capacity to deliver the programmes necessary to meet the needs of the prison population and many prisoners have to wait for an excessive time before they are able to participate in a programme. This causes delays to their eligibility for parole and return to the community.
- Personal Officers - There is scope to improve the level of training for personal officers and the support they need to complete their function successfully. Effective personal officer schemes should be operating in every prison in Scotland.
- Interagency working - Whilst there were lots of examples where excellent support is organised, far too often people leave prison without any accommodation arranged, without being registered with a GP and unable to receive their benefits without undue delay. The absence of such basic arrangements create unnecessary barriers to a constructive and positive life, where the likelihood of reoffending is reduced. It is hoped that the introduction of Community Justice Scotland will lead to more joined-up services for people leaving prison.
The Year Ahead
The year 2016-17 will be the first full year of Independent Prison Monitoring.
HMCIPS will be conducting a thematic inspection of the experience of older prisoners in Scottish prisons, which will contribute to the future planning of suitable conditions and treatment for the growing number of older prisoners in our prisons.
Read the report here.