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HM Inspectorate of Prisons: Report on HMP Peterhead


5. Prisoner Management


5.1 The reception area has a holding room with two adjacent cubicles which are used only for searching and for changing. There is no routine use of cubicles. There is a store for prisoners clothing and property. This is clean and well organised. Notices in various languages are on display and Peterhead has access to the national telephone interpreter service. There is a shower area which is shared with the gymnasium. This area is bleak and there was a serious drainage problem with an attendant powerful smell. The drainage in the shower area should be repaired.

5.2 There is not a high level of movement through the Reception. Peterhead only accepts admissions from other prisons. In theory, all movements should be planned, however considerable frustration was expressed by both reception and other staff and managers over the service provided by the escort provider. Evidence was presented which showed that escorts are regularly late or do not arrive. Although the prison has no reception staff in the evening, planned routine transfers from other prisons arrive in the evening, requiring staff to be deployed from other duties and potentially curtailing prisoner activities. Of concern was the evidence that on a fairly regular basis hospital escorts are late or cancelled due to escorting staff not arriving or arriving too late for clinics which have fixed hours. SPS should ensure that the escort contractor carries out planned escorts regularly, on time, and at a time that meets the needs of the rest of the prison.


5.3 Induction is well managed and documented. The process has been improved by the creation of a dedicated Induction Unit in 'B' Annexe, and the introduction of a local version of the SPS National Programme. The Induction Unit has 21 cells. There are two dedicated induction officers based in the Induction Unit.

5.4 Induction starts before the prisoner arrives at Peterhead. An induction officer conducts a 'Pre Admission Interview' in the holding prison. This interview assesses the prisoner's suitability for Peterhead.

5.5 Following the reception process in Peterhead the prisoner is located in the Induction Unit. An initial interview usually takes place within 24 hours depending on the time of arrival at the prison. The 13 Modules contained in the induction pack are comprehensive and clear and the Unit aims to complete these modules within two weeks. It is not always possible for external agencies to make their contributions within that time, although effort is made to contact them on the day of arrival. A sample of folders was examined and all of these were up to date and completed to a good standard. Inspectors spoke to a small group of prisoners in the Unit, all of whom said that the induction process had helped them settle in.

5.6 After the modules have been completed, prisoners should be allocated a job which offers a meaningful experience. The lack of workplaces in the prison generally means that this does not always happen. Some prisoners are not offered work for lengthy periods of time and they have little to do except sit around the Induction Unit.

5.7 Some prisoners can remain in the Induction Unit for up to six months depending on their needs and vulnerability. Others move into the mainstream fairly quickly.

Sentence Management

5.8 Sentence Management is the responsibility of a First Line Manager, and is co-ordinated by a Sentence Management Officer who is also responsible for co-ordinating a range of casework (including Parole, Complaints and Case Reviews). Thirty one staff are trained in the SPS Risk and Needs Assessment system, and while officers are tasked with a small number of target completions to maintain their competency, the bulk of Sentence management work falls to officers who work on a part day-shift basis after covering hall posts.

5.9 On admission, prisoners are located in 'B' Annexe where induction is carried out. As part of this, they have their details logged by the Sentence Management staff and are assigned a personal officer. A useful locally designed programme automatically signals target dates and re-assigns personal officers as prisoners move within the prison. The Co-ordinator assigns individual cases each month and the First Line Manager monitors completions. The risk assessments lead to referrals to programmes and to service providers. The action plans are agreed by the prisoner and his personal officer. The exceptions are referrals to the Risk Management Group ( RMG) and to the Psychology Unit, where two people (normally the personal officer and hall manager) must make a referral.

5.10 The RMG is a multi-disciplinary group, chaired by the Deputy Governor. It convenes, as required, to address any adverse developments such as inappropriate or aggressive behaviour, self-harm, downgrades, or recalls from licence.

5.11 With a few exceptions, Peterhead has a well-organised Sentence Management system and meets its monthly targets. An examination of a sample of case folders indicated that the entries were appropriate.


5.12 There appears to be little in the way of formal links between Sentence Management and either Social Work or Psychology within the prison. The Sentence Management staff had no experience of contact with a prisoner's assigned local authority criminal justice social worker. The establishment of a system to allow joint management of casework should be examined.

5.13 Despite the lack of formal links, the prison will, in common with other prisons, be required to implement Integrated Case Management (the prison and community joint working practice for prisoner management). The target date for this had been 1st April but this was changed. Peterhead now has a (still very ambitious) target of 1st June for moving to Integrated Case Management, as mentioned elsewhere in this report.


5.14 Pre-release arrangements consist of a one-week programme which runs three times a year. To ensure sufficient participants, the officer managing pre-release will make contact with the next 15 prisoners due for release and invite them to participate. Not all prisoners take this up. A frustration within the system is the particular arrangement for managing prisoners who are due to complete their sentences at Peterhead. Most are transferred to prisons near their address on liberation for release. In 2005-06, 58 prisoners were due to be liberated from Peterhead. Of these, 47 were transferred to prisons in the Central Belt just prior to liberation. These prisoners may have been scheduled to attend a pre-release programme; however this was not always taken into account before they were transferred.

5.15 Although prisoners are transferred nearer to their address prior to release to help manage their transition back to the community, it is likely that when they arrive at their local prison, they will be placed on protection. It is unlikely that they will have any structured pre-release programme at the local prison. Many of these prisoners will pose a high risk, and will also have high needs. It is recommended that all prisoners due for liberation from Peterhead have access to appropriate pre-release programmes.

5.16 The pre-release programme is arranged by two officers. They in turn are dependent on other agencies supporting the programme. There was clear frustration that this support was not guaranteed and that other priorities often meant that those who were due to deliver elements of the programme cancelled at short notice. As a result, the course has a range of elements, which may or may not be delivered. The organisers are clearly used to changing the content at very short notice.

5.17 Previously, the course lasted two weeks, with APEX workers from HMP Edinburgh delivering employability and job preparation modules. This was discontinued when the Contract with APEX was terminated. Elements such as alcohol and drug awareness, budgeting, the benefits system (delivered by Jocentreplus), and housing referrals to Shelter are included. Coping and addiction relapse sessions are included, as is awareness of complying with licences. The organisers identified an extreme antipathy among most participants towards supervision on release and towards criminal justice social workers who will be responsible for such supervision. As highlighted elsewhere in this report there is little evidence of criminal justice social workers engaging with clients during their sentences.

5.18 On a more positive note, pre-release officers commented on good relationships with the prison social work department. A pre-release case conference is held with each prisoner approximately one month prior to release. Due to the problems highlighted above, there may be nothing else done beyond this.

5.19 Overall, pre-release arrangements at Peterhead give considerable cause for concern. The officers responsible appear committed but unsupported. There is little evidence of a management structure within which pre-release operates. The courses offered are ad hoc because some of the individuals and agencies involved do not appear to consider them a priority. The content of the courses does not appear to be the result of a structured assessment of needs. There is no evidence of where pre-release fits into a strategy for managing individuals. There are clear opportunities for service deliverers within the prison to provide relevant elements of pre-release. It is recommended that pre-release arrangements suitable to the assessed needs of prisoners at Peterhead are developed and implemented.

Supervised Work Activities in the Community

5.20 Work in the community is allowed only after thorough risk assessment. At the time of inspection six prisoners had been involved. Until now it has always been supervised project work, and there is no contact with the public. There have been no incidents reported and prisoners who have taken part feel that it is extremely worthwhile. No public concern has been reported.

5.21 Twelve prisoners were participating in the Special Escorted Leave Scheme at the time of inspection. Prisoners were very positive about their experience.

5.22 These are both limited schemes. However they are one small step in the direction of providing proper preparation for release of prisoners in Peterhead; and as a result may be the beginning of a contribution to public safety.

Life Sentence Prisoners

5.23 There is one Lifer Liaison Officer ( LLO) in post and this area of work is almost full-time. There were 64 life sentence prisoners being held at the time of inspection. Work includes compiling Parole Reports, LLO reports, Extended Sentence Reports and preparing for Tribunals.

5.24 The two key issues facing life sentence prisoners, and the establishment, are progression from Peterhead and the requirement to participate in and complete the STOP programme. The only movement available to lifers at present is the 'top end' at HMP Edinburgh where work placements in the community are available, although some have gone to Chrisswell House in HMP Greenock in the past. All needs have to be met before this can take place, and there are limited places available in HMP Edinburgh. There is therefore some siltage in Peterhead. The second issue raised during the inspection was that prisoners sometimes felt "coerced" into doing the STOP programme, believing that they would not otherwise be granted parole. This was leading to resentment and a feeling that the programme was being devalued, as some prisoners were only 'going through the motions'. Moreover, there is a significant waiting list for the STOP programme.