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HM Inspectorate of Prisons: Report on HMP Peterhead


2. Population, Accommodation and Routines


2.1 The prison has a maximum single cell capacity of 306 and on the first day of inspection there were 299 prisoners unlocked. Almost all of these prisoners are convicted of sex offences and sentenced to more than four years. There were two prisoners under the age of 21 and two prisoners on recall from licence. All prisoners come to Peterhead from another prison.

Accommodation and Routines

2.2 There have been two significant changes to the accommodation since the last full inspection. Prisoners now no longer share cells; and all cells have been fitted with electrical power. Whilst these changes are important it does not hide the fact that prisoners in Peterhead are living in the worst conditions in any prison in Scotland.

2.3 Many of the cells are very small and there is no access to sanitation in five of the seven residential units. In these cells prisoners use a chemical toilet which is emptied twice a week. Prisoners spend many hours every day in their cell, which consequently acts as an all in one living room, dining room, bedroom and toilet.

2.4 Peterhead has seven residential units, detailed below.

'B' Annexe, 'A' Hall, 'B' Hall, 'C' Hall and 'D' Hall

2.5 Facilities are broadly the same in 'B' Annexe, 'A' Hall, 'B' Hall, 'C' Hall and 'D' Hall. The buildings are old, but the standard of cleanliness in the communal areas is very good.

2.6 'B' Annexe holds admissions and is now often referred to as the Induction Unit. It has 21 cells and there were 21 prisoners living there on the first day of inspection. 'B' Annexe is adjacent to 'B' Hall, separated by a door that remains open most of the time. Prisoners remain in 'B' Annexe during their induction and thereafter until a cell becomes available in one of the other halls, or until any special needs have been met.

2.7 'B' Hall has 58 cells and there were 58 prisoners living there on the first day of inspection. 'A' Hall and 'D' Hall were at one time a single larger residential area. A partition was built to create the two smaller units. 'A' Hall has 66 cells and 65 prisoners were living there on the first day of inspection. 'D' Hall has 61 cells and 57 prisoners were living there.

2.8 It is worth noting that although there appeared to be space for seven more prisoners this was not the case. Some prisoners had been transferred to other prisons nearer their home area for a short period of times to facilitate visits from their family. Because most of the prisoners in Peterhead are not from the north east this is a constant feature of the prison. Other prisoners can be located in other establishments because of appearances in the Appeal Court, and some may be resident in Aberdeen Royal Infirmary.

2.9 There are showers on each floor in each hall. There are no temperature controls in the showers and some prisoners complained that certain showers were too hot. This should be monitored by staff and remedial action taken when necessary.

2.10 Prisoners have a chemical toilet in their cell. There are two set times of the week for these to be emptied, but staff and prisoners said that if any prisoner needed to empty his toilet at another time this would be allowed.

2.11 There are ablutions areas on each floor with a sufficient number of toilet cubicles. The doors on the cubicles are very small and offer very little privacy. The doors on the toilets should be made larger. Some prisoners said that it was possible to live without using the chemical toilet. It was apparent that many prisoners tried to do this because when the slopping out process was taking place during the inspection only a few prisoners needed to empty their toilet.

2.12 Recreation takes place within the halls. There is pool, snooker, darts and board games. There is a large screen television in each hall for communal use. There is no access to satellite or cable television. 'C' Hall has recreation rooms adjacent to the main concourse. The other halls have recreation equipment on the floor of the hall. Prisoners from all halls exercise in one large exercise yard located between 'B' Hall and 'C' Hall.

2.13 There is an adequate number of telephones in each hall. Most are in a telephone box or have canopies to provide some privacy. One telephone in 'C' Hall was not covered in any way and this should be addressed.

2.14 Prisoners collect their meals from a servery within each hall and usually eat in their cells. The one exception to this is a small communal dining area in 'C' Hall, although only a few prisoners use it.

2.15 The main feature in the halls is the lack of integral sanitation. The cells have no toilet and no sink. There is no access to running water in the cells. Prisoners have a flask, a kettle and a basin. They are also limited in the amount of water they can have and if they use it to wash they have no way of getting rid of the dirty water during periods of lock up. Prisoners use the two litre plastic bottles they buy soft drinks in from the canteen to keep water, but some staff remove these bottles from cells because they suspect they are used to make hooch. Prisoners do not receive hand wipes so they need water to maintain a reasonable level of personal hygiene. The chemicals needed to maintain levels of cleanliness in cells were not always available. These are kept in hall ablutions areas. Many were empty. Prisoners should be able to acquire the equipment and materials they need to keep their cells clean.

2.16 The cells in these halls do not comply with SPS own cell certification standard. They are not fit for purpose.

'E' Hall

2.17 Peterhead has created an internal progression system since the last inspection. 'E' Hall is the first enhanced stage of that process. There are 15 cells in 'E' Hall, which at one time was the Segregation Unit. There were 15 prisoners living there on the first day of inspection.

2.18 The cells in 'E' Hall are larger than the other halls. They are spacious and the regime befits the enhanced status of the prisoners who live there.

2.19 The hall has a soft seating area and small kitchen. There is also a small yard and garden. These areas are not accessible to prisoners except at specified times. Prisoners can exercise in the main yard with the rest of the prison.

2.20 Prisoners in 'E' Hall have a key to their own door so they can leave their cell during lock up periods to use the toilet, have a shower or sit with another prisoner.

2.21 There is one telephone located on the ground floor in a telephone box. For no obvious reason it is switched off during patrol periods. The prison should allow prisoners to use the telephone during patrol periods.

2.22 The creation of an enhanced regime in 'E' Hall means that 15 fewer prisoners in Peterhead have to slop out.

The Peterhead Unit

2.23 The Peterhead Unit is the local 'top end'. It has ten cells and ten prisoners were living there on the first day of inspection. The Unit is the newest accommodation in Peterhead. It is the only accommodation with a toilet and a sink in each cell. The toilets are unscreened.

2.24 Prisoners have a key to their own door and can associate during patrol periods. They can also access the communal toilets and showers. Prisoners had free-view television boxes in their cells at the time of inspection.

2.25 Meals are served from a servery and prisoners can eat in a communal dining area. The dining room is well used. There is a washing machine and tumble dryer in the ablutions area so prisoners can do their own laundry.

2.26 Recreation facilities are located in an area adjacent to the cells. There is pool, darts and some exercise equipment. There is also a large screen television and a small kitchen. Prisoners cannot access this area during lock up periods. There is a telephone in a quiet corner in a lounge area. It is only accessible during periods of unlock. As there is no staff presence in the Unit during patrol periods there is an internal telephone in the cells area in case a prisoner has to contact staff in an emergency.

2.27 There is a very pleasant garden area around the Unit and prisoners can walk in the open air during periods of unlock. They can also go to the main exercise yard to meet with prisoners from the other halls. The standard of accommodation in the Unit is excellent and the use of the Unit as a local top end is an excellent addition to the accommodation.