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Slopping out continues at Polmont

01/07/2005

Slopping out still happens in Polmont although a new building project is well underway, according to a report published today

The latest report from the Chief Inspector of Prisons, Dr Andrew McLellan, describes a follow up inspection in March 2005.

The inspection of Polmont was a follow up inspection with a focus on conditions in which prisoners live and on the way prisoners are treated.

Dr McLellan notes that:

  • A new build project is now well underway, with the first of two activities buildings due for completion in the summer of 2005
  • The very bad conditions in Nevis Hall identified in last year's report have been addressed and the hall now houses an innovative Drug Prevention Centre
  • The Young Offenders Institution (YOI) is much better at making sure staff are available to escort young adults to where they should be, such as the gym or education programmes, for example.

However, he also points out that:

  • Arrangements for access to sanitation and hygiene in Argyll and Spey Halls are bad, although they are better than they were
  • There are still insufficient work places for the convicted population and young adults spend too long locked up in their cells
  • Children under the age of 16 are still being held in Polmont
  • The portions of food are no bigger than before.

Dr McLellan said:

"Though arrangements for slopping out have improved at Polmont, no amount of improvement can make it acceptable. Slopping out is always bad and it is particularly bad that it happens in a hall which holds prisoners on remand and it is very upsetting that the only remand prisoners who are regularly slopping out are under 21 years of age.

"However, real improvements have been made in the arrangements for slopping out since the last report. Among them and most importantly, at the time of inspection no prisoner who was slopping out was sharing a cell.

"Changes in Nevis Hall are encouraging. Last year's report identified the atmosphere in Nevis Hall as "tense and oppressive". That has changed. There is now a relaxed atmosphere within a redecorated hall. Most significantly, Nevis Hall now leads an innovative new approach to tackling addictions, which has been welcomed by both staff and prisoners.

"A major building project is taking place. Work has begun to build the first of two new buildings. It is hoped that this may be completed by late summer of 2005 and will house regime facilities including work and education units.

"It is not possible to report any improvement in three serious matters which caused concern in the report of the last inspection.

"Firstly, the portions of food are no bigger than before, despite an attempt having been made to increase them. Serving larger helpings caused such an increase in cost that it had to be abandoned.

"Secondly, there is not enough work for the number of young adults in Polmont.

"And thirdly, children under the age of 16 are still being held in Polmont. Eleven were held there within the last year, one of them for a period of 130 days. The U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child states that "In all actions concerning children …. the best interests of the child shall be a primary consideration." And that imprisonment of a child "shall be used only as a measure of last resort and for the shortest appropriate period of time."

Scotland's prisons are subject to regular inspection. A full inspection normally takes place every three years and examines all aspects of the establishment. Follow up inspections are carried out in years where a full inspection does not take place and these examine points of note raised in previous inspections, examine significant changes since then, and explore issues arising from the establishment's own assessment of itself.

Copies of Reports will be available on the Inspectorate's website: www.scotland.gov.uk/hmip.