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HM Inspectorate of Prisons: Report on HMP Peterhead


9. Services

Estates and Facilities

9.1 The Estates Department had a staff complement of 14 at the time of inspection. This is a significant reduction from the 29 staff at the time of the last full inspection. A further reduction in this number is planned.

9.2 The uncertain future of Peterhead has meant that relatively little capital investment has been made since the installation of electrical power in cells. Work has been carried out to install fire escapes to meet legislative requirements. Otherwise, most spend has been on routine maintenance. Even here the planned preventative maintenance programme has become a reactive maintenance response. A simple example of this which affects prisoners is that the planned programme of replacing light bulbs has ceased. Bulbs are replaced when they fail. If a cell bulb fails at the weekend it is not replaced until the following week. In addition to disadvantaging prisoners, this poses a potential safety issue. A planned preventative maintenance estate programme should be reinstated. Despite this, Peterhead presents as a clean and well decorated prison. Given this situation relating to little capital investment, as well as concerns expressed by the Visiting Committee and staff it is recommended that a decision is made on the future of the prison.

Health and Safety

9.3 The Health and Safety Co-ordinator was recruited three years ago. He has appropriate professional qualifications and is supported by the Estates Manager. He also covers the roles of Fire Safety Officer and Environment Manager.

9.4 The H & S Co-ordinator monitors safety in the prison, organises accident investigations and undertakes work place inspections and risk assessments. He also provides advice as necessary to managers and staff on H & S related matters.

9.5 The Health and Safety Committee meets quarterly and is chaired by the Estates Manager. All functional areas are represented at the meetings as well as TUS representatives. Minutes seen by inspectors show that the meetings focus on appropriate issues and action points are identified and reviewed at subsequent meetings.

9.6 There is signage prominently displayed throughout the prison promoting good H & S practice. In particular the demands of managing the risks attached to the practice of slopping out are appropriately advertised. An accident book is held in the Health Centre.

9.7 The H & S Co-ordinator tabulates accident data. The table converts information on time lost as a result of an accident into financial terms. This helps focus Managers' attention on the impact of accidents. Where an identified training need is identified from an accident the conversion of the lost time into money helps justify expenditure on training. In a recent Health and Safety Executive Inspection two improvement notices were received. These have been addressed.

9.8 The overall Health & Safety culture in Peterhead is excellent.

Human Resources and Staff Training

9.9 A Human Resource Manager, Training & Development Manager and HR Assistant manage HR and staff training.

9.10 A significant amount of time is spent monitoring staff absence, which has been a problem in the recent past. In the period between January 2005 and May 2006 3,445 days were lost to staff absence. It is worth noting that 1,548 of these days were listed as lost to stress related illnesses. The HR Department have a coaching, advising and monitoring role for First Line Managers.

9.11 This level of absence can make it difficult to cover posts. However, it was encouraging that this had not led to a culture of locking prisoners in their cells more than would be the norm. On the first day of inspection Peterhead welcomed seven new operations officers. These are the first new recruits in Peterhead since May 2004. Their arrival may alleviate some of the staffing problems.

9.12 The prison successfully renewed its IIP Accreditation in July 2005.

9.13 Staff training is very well organised and the facilities for training in the prison are excellent. Facilities for IT training are particularly impressive.

9.14 Staff in workshops have recently started to receive training which in turn will allow them to provide qualifications to prisoners in their area. This is an area of good practice.


9.15 The kitchen is old with limited space. However, it is functional, clean and fit for purpose. In order to get best value from the £1.57 per prisoner per day budget, the kitchen tries to make as many of the meals they provide as possible from raw materials. The Catering Manager estimated that 98% of meals were created in this way.

9.16 There are Environmental Health Officer inspections annually and a daily Food Safety Monitoring system is completed in the kitchen by staff.

9.17 The kitchen employs 10 - 15 prisoners each day from a pool of 25. Those not in the kitchen will be involved in programmes, education, physical education or other activities. New workers are interviewed, and their personal hygiene standards and general health are checked. An induction checklist is used with all new workers. The safe system of work for each task in the kitchen is covered and the prisoner and Catering Officer sign the induction checklist on completion.

9.18 A room adjacent to the kitchen is used as a dining room by kitchen workers. At one time prisoners working in the kitchen could attain qualifications. This has now lapsed. The prison should reintroduce the opportunity for prisoners to attain qualifications in the kitchen.

9.19 All Peterhead prisoners pre-select their menu choices two weeks in advance. Religious, cultural and medical needs are catered for within the menu. A Muslim prisoner works in the kitchen and helps with the arrangements for other Muslim prisoners.

9.20 Storage arrangements are very well organised. Special diet items are kept separately in a lockable fridge, as are other items which used to be frequently stolen.

9.21 Catering Officers with professional qualifications create the menu. They ensure that the choices available provide the opportunity for all prisoners to have a healthy diet. Healthy and low-fat options are highlighted on the menu. This is an area of good practice. When required, medical advice will be given by health centre staff on a prisoner's dietary needs.

9.22 Catering meetings take place on a regular basis. Prisoners are given the opportunity to raise complaints and suggest changes to the menu. The catering service provided is popular with prisoners. In the most recent prisoner survey the findings in Peterhead were very encouraging. The percentage listed is the aggregate of those who said very good, good or okay:


SPS average

The choice of menu



The size of portions



The temperature of the food



The way in which food is served



The timing of meals



9.23 Despite these very positive results from prisoners there are some shortcomings in the catering service. Prisoners are served their meals from a servery in their hall. Prisoners and officers who serve the food from the hall serveries do not always wear white overalls and food-handling training has not been provided. Apart from those in 'E' Hall, the Unit and 'C' Hall everyone eats in their cell. Eating in a room in which they sleep and use a chemical toilet is unacceptable. Most prisoners have their own cutlery and plates. They are expected to clean them themselves but the facilities and washing up liquid needed to do so are not available in all areas. These issues should be addressed.

9.24 Senior Managers only rarely sample prisoners' food and when they do they always do so in the kitchen. A senior Manager should sample a meal every day, and should do so in the halls as well as in the kitchen.

9.25 One very good initiative is the way cereals are issued. It is a self-service system. Cereal dispensers are kept in the kitchen and taken to each hall in the morning. The dispensers hold a variety of cereals. A prisoner can choose which cereal he would like and a set portion is dispensed. The cereal is stored safely and dispensing is hygienic. There is no wastage, no need to put the cereal into portion bags, cereal can be bought more cheaply in bulk and those prisoners who like to have cereal for breakfast can do so. This is an area of good practice.


9.26 The laundry facility is excellent. There is sufficient washing and drying capacity to meet the needs of the prison, and also undertake some contract work from outside the prison.

9.27 Peterhead has a machine for stone washing denims and it does this for all SPS prison issue denims. It also cleans all of the mops and other cleaning items for the prison every week.

9.28 All clothing in Peterhead is personalised. Prison or personal items have a label discretely ironed on with the owner's name and prison number. This is an area of good practice.

9.29 The laundry has one Officer Instructor and employs 13 prisoners. Some of these prisoners work on a part-time basis. There is a logical rotation system in place for laundry from the halls. The system facilitates prisoners being able to launder their items of dirty clothing daily and their bedding weekly.

9.30 Dirty laundry arrives in "dirty" barrows each morning and after it has been washed and dried it leaves in "clean" barrows. All kit is listed and sorted when it arrives and losses or damage are rare. The Officer Instructor maintains a detailed database of all items laundered for management information.

9.31 There is no certificated training available in the laundry. Prisoners receive on-site practical coaching from the Officer Instructor or from other prisoners. If the Officer Instructor had the appropriate qualification prisoners in the laundry could gain certification in the work they are doing. All of the other elements needed are in place. This is a missed opportunity.


9.32 Peterhead uses the 'Bag & Tag' system. The Canteen is managed by two administration staff. One prisoner also helps. Prisoners can receive items from the Canteen once a week. The administrative process is well organised and there are very few problems with the system.

9.33 Wage sheets go to the halls every Tuesday. Sheets are checked and orders made up on Wednesday. Bags are issued on Thursday. There is a rotation system so a different hall is served first each week. Any discrepancies are sorted out on Fridays. Friday is also when the books are balanced and the next week's orders are telephoned in. Deliveries arrive on the Monday ready for the process beginning again.

9.34 A Canteen Committee meets every three months. Prisoner representatives from each residential unit attend as well as staff from throughout the prison. The Committee meetings are a useful way for prisoners to influence the items available and express their views on prices and the system in general.

9.35 Peterhead uses a similar Canteen sheet to other prisons. It has not taken up the opportunity to use the Canteen sheet as a means of communicating with prisoners.