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HM Inspectorate of Prisons: Report on HMP Peterhead


8. Care

Family Contact

8.1 For those prisoners and families who wish to remain in contact, arrangements are good. Visit times are set, but within the slots arrangements are flexible and prisoners can spend as long as they want with their visitors within these defined times.

8.2 The main visits and waiting rooms remain the same as those described in the last full inspection report three years ago. They are not well furnished and the waiting room can only seat a handful of visitors. At weekends visitors still have to wait in a bus outside the prison. The bus is rented for that purpose. An "overflow" visits room comprises two classrooms in the Learning Centre, which are divided by a partition. The partition is removed for the weekend visit sessions if required. The Learning Centre is located in the main prison and it is possible that some visitors may not welcome being in this area. SPS have decided not to fund a new Gate/Visit complex but it is recommended again that the visits facility is improved.

8.3 Although the visits and waiting rooms require to be improved, all prisoners spoken to were satisfied with the general visiting arrangements - particularly the flexibility within the allocated times. There are adequate notices in the waiting room for families and the SPS "comments sheet for visitors" was readily available. Toilets were clean and accessible.

8.4 There is one Family Contact Development Officer in post and he is currently building up a team of four additional staff. The role of FCDO is in addition to other duties within the prison. The FCDO scheme works well in conjunction with the Personal Officer Scheme.

Physical Education

8.5 Peterhead has two full time PE Instructors and two residential officers who provide support. The two residential officers are qualified sports and games instructors. In the near future a third full time post is being created in the gym. Facilities are very basic. Much of the floor space in the gym is now taken up by equipment as exercise preferences change.

8.6 In the summer prisoners can exercise outside. There is an all weather football pitch, a jogging track and a large concrete chessboard. Prisoners can also participate in outdoor bowling.

8.7 The provision of PE in Peterhead is geared to meet the specific needs of its prisoner population. Every new prisoner receives a personalised induction. The different equipment available is explained and prisoners are encouraged to adopt a healthy lifestyle. The timetable in place allows prisoners from all areas to regularly attend the gym. Particularly enthusiastic individuals can attend four days per week. PE Instructors try to involve everyone in the prison in some activity: including carpet bowls, badminton, football, volleyball, aerobics, boxercise, basketball, weight lifting, exercise bikes, rowing machines and a variety of other cardio vascular exercise machines.

8.8 Prisoners cannot currently attain sports based qualifications. However, this is being reviewed when the third Instructor is recruited. There are some concerns about this because the nature of the offences committed makes it unlikely that Peterhead prisoners could ever work in a sports centre or a gym. This should be carefully managed.

8.9 PE staff organise two 'well person' days each year for prisoners and staff. Health Centre staff also help. The participation levels are very encouraging with 20 - 25% of staff attending and 60 - 70% of prisoners. This has contributed significantly to Peterhead achieving the Gold SHAW Award in 2001.

8.10 Despite the limited facilities, PE provision is well organised and is meeting the needs of the prisoner population.

Social Work

8.11 The social work team comprises four social workers and a team leader employed by Aberdeenshire Council. The team has experienced difficulties in filling vacancies, reflecting the acute recruitment problems rural areas face at a time of a national shortfall in qualified social workers. Most recently it advertised on three occasions before filling a post that had been vacant for over eight months.

8.12 All prisoners have an allocated worker in the team who is responsible for carrying out statutory work in relation to that individual and for responding to any self-referrals for advice and assistance they may make. Statutory work includes preparing reports for the Parole Board, courts or life prisoners' tribunals; screening requests from Schedule 1 prisoners for visits from children; attending pre-release meetings within the prison; risk management meetings in prison and in the community; and contributing to Sentence Management.

8.13 The team has little capacity to undertake much work beyond their statutory tasks. Staff have received all appropriate SPS training (including ACT and Control and Restraint) and the team leader participates in a number of strategic and operational working groups in the prison. In all other respects, however, social work staff play a fairly minor part in the life of the prison. They do not facilitate groupwork, are not included in the formal induction process (though separately ensure that they meet all prisoners normally within three days of admission), and have a low profile within the day-to-day life of the prison. For example, while hall notice boards publicise other resources there is no mention of social work services. Prisoners spoken to were not aware who their allocated social worker was although knew how to make a self-referral if they needed to.

8.14 The low profile of the team is underlined by its isolated physical location in the prison (within the former Peterhead 'Unit') and its limited access to suitable interviewing facilities. The prison requires the team to compete on a 'first come first served' basis for access to the interview rooms used by external agencies such as solicitors and community-based social workers and to adhere to the same visiting times as these agencies. The prison has only two private interview rooms and meetings with prisoners regularly have to take place in the open visiting room. Despite privacy screens in this room, sensitive and confidential information is audible.

8.15 Funding has been made available to allow the team to recruit one additional social worker to facilitate the STOP programme and a further two workers to meet the additional workload demands that the introduction of Integrated Case Management ( ICM) will bring. However, given the recruitment difficulties that exist it is unlikely that these posts will be filled for some time.

8.16 The implications of any delay in recruitment are serious and may mean that the prison cannot fully implement ICM for some months despite planning to do so on 1 June. The prison has estimated that ICM will involve an average 30 case conferences per month. Social work staff within the prison state they cannot cope with this demand within existing resources.

8.17 The social work team also potentially face IT barriers in implementing ICM. They have had no guidance on how their 'stand-alone' system will link with the prison system and until recently had access to only one SPIN computer. They have now received another computer but are sceptical that it will be sufficient to meet the new demands.

8.18 It was also particularly concerning to find that some prisoners did not have an allocated supervising social worker in the responsible local authority and that some of those who did had never met this worker. The Scottish Executive has issued guidance to local authorities about their roles and responsibilities in relation to long-term prisoners and have provided additional funding to ensure that they can meet the requirements to maintain minimum levels of contact with those prisoners throughout their sentence. There is no clear reason why this is not happening as it should, particularly given the potentially high level of risk these prisoners present. Though the prison's geographical location undoubtedly makes it more difficult to maintain contact it appears that some local authorities have managed to overcome this problem while others make less effort to do so. It is recommended that all prisoners have an allocated supervising social worker in the responsible local authority. These supervising social workers must visit prisoners during their sentence.

8.19 The prison has no Links Centre or equivalent. The link between prison and community resources is directly through the supervising social worker and it is therefore particularly important that this link works well. It is recommended that the link between prison and community social work resources is improved.

8.20 Prisoners should receive the same standard of service regardless of the authority they will return to on release. If this does not happen the proposed Integrated Case Management system will not work as it is meant to. In order to assist prisoners to resettle successfully back into the community and to manage properly any risks they may pose it is vital that services work together throughout a prisoner's sentence and into the period of post-release supervision.

8.21 Overall, social work services within the prison do not consistently play the role in prisoners' lives that they could and should. The limited capacity of the prison social work team, its isolated position within the prison, and the inconsistent approach by local authorities to discharging their throughcare responsibilities to prisoners contribute to this.


8.22 The psychology staffing complement for Peterhead is one senior (full time), two team leaders (full time), and four psychologists (three full time, one part time). The current position is that the senior's post is vacant and an additional counselling/clinical psychologist is providing one day a week focusing on mental health work. The previous senior also provides one day a week cover as a temporary measure.

8.23 Apart from the additional clinical resource, the bulk of the psychologists' time is devoted to supporting programmes, particularly STOP. To a much lesser degree, the team attends the Risk Management Group and completes risk assessments as required. They also complete violence assessments, provide an input to Sentence Management training, and take part in management meetings.

8.24 At the time of inspection the service being provided appeared disjointed. The service being provided by the forensic psychologists and the service being provided by the clinical psychologist had led to confusion. On the day of inspection only the previous senior psychologist was in the prison. This disjointed feeling should be addressed.

8.25 Having said that, the number of completions of the STOP programme has increased significantly from the last full inspection.


8.26 The programmes unit is staffed by one First Line Manager and ten officers. One of these officer posts is vacant. There is a very well appointed and self-contained set of offices with group rooms and ancillary accommodation. The prison based social workers are still not involved in programme delivery although an additional post is planned which will address this.

8.27 Peterhead receives a great deal of attention due to its work with sex-offenders and it is difficult to describe how issues around the offence specific programmes dominate so much of life within the prison. Staff encourage prisoners to participate. Although some do participate, as many as one third do not. Some prisoners see the encouragement as coercion. In turn some prisoners try to undermine the programmes, discouraging others from participating. They also seek opportunities to have staff and others who are in the prison collude with their views both about the programmes and about their offending behaviour. Some participate willingly, others participate in order to meet conditions for release. Others make great play of being willing to participate but welcome the current waiting list for offence specific programmes since it means they are unlikely to have to commit to participate.

8.28 For those observing or inspecting, these claims and counterclaims can be bewildering. There is a sense of continually being alert to what meaning might lie behind even quite innocuous conversations. There is a sizeable group of highly manipulative individuals among this prisoner population.

8.29 All of this makes the delivery of programmes a complex activity. The fact that some staff have dealt with the hugely demanding task of delivering programmes and coping with the personal demands that arise for over six years has to be recognised. The commitment of staff to delivering programmes is commendable.

8.30 Adding to the complexity surrounding this issue is the fact that there is little evidence to help answer the question "does it work?". So central is the programme in reducing re-offending among sex offenders in Scotland that such evidence must be gathered soon. It is recommended again that evidence of the effectiveness of the STOP programmes is gathered soon.

8.31 Programmes currently run are as follows:

  • STOP (2000) Core Programme (referred to as Core STOP). This runs with approximately eight prisoners over eight to nine months and has 85 sessions. There is a complex monitoring and evaluation process in place. The prison is able to run two of these per year from its resources.
  • Adapted STOP is designed for those who cannot undertake STOP for educational or learning reasons. There are four sessions per week over nine months with monitoring and evaluation.
  • Extended STOP is aimed at those who have completed STOP. The programme is aimed at those prisoners who have completed Core STOP and who require further work to reduce the risk of re-offending.
  • olling STOP runs for four to five months with additional individual work and is aimed at low to medium risk offenders. It is also used for high risk offenders who have completed other programmes as a 'top up' and to assist the relapse prevention plans.

8.32 Completions of STOP are as follows:






























8.33 Forty two completions are anticipated in 2006-07.

8.34 In addition, three non-offence specific programmes are run. They are important not just in themselves, but to encourage individuals to participate in group work as a step towards the offence specific programme. These programmes are:

  • Cognitive Skills (which will be replaced by the updated "Constructs" in 2006-07)
  • Relationships
  • Sensible Drinking

8.35 Completions of these programmes is as follows:





Cognitive Skills










Sensible Drinking





Anger Management










8.36 Anger Management is not available due to issues related to accreditation. There is no drug related programme available. This is a considerable gap since Phoenix House, who has the contract for drug work in SPS are specifically contracted not to work with sex-offenders.

8.37 Prisoners are referred to Programmes as part of Induction and through Sentence Management. There is a considerable waiting list for the offence specific programmes. Previously, prisoners were allocated to these in order to allow completion prior to their Parole Qualification Date. Access is now based on completion prior to Earliest Date of Liberation. Life sentence prisoners have their date of access based on a target of four years prior to being considered for parole. Additional pressures come from the conditions set both by the Parole Board and by Life Sentence Tribunals who may set programme completion as a condition of release.

8.38 There are currently 129 prisoners on the waiting list for STOP programmes. It is almost inevitable that many will be released before they have taken part in a programme; this has to be a concern for public safety. It is not an issue the prison is able to address in isolation. It is recommended again that further STOP programmes should be available to address the waiting list which exists.

Race Relations

8.39 Peterhead has one Race Relations Manager and two Race Relations Officers in post. These duties are in addition to others within the establishment. There is no Race Relations Monitoring Group in place and this should be addressed.

8.40 At the time of inspection there were seven ethnic minority prisoners being held. Three of these were foreign nationals. One Muslim prisoner worked in the kitchen preparing special diets, another had been involved with the library and the choosing of specialist books. Religious ceremonies are catered for and the prison has access to the telephone translating service.

8.41 Four complaints relating to race relations were made in the past year. All had been dealt with appropriately.


8.42 The Chaplaincy Team comprises one Church of Scotland (four days a week) and one Roman Catholic (nine hours a week) chaplains. An Episcopal chaplain provides a service monthly and the Prison Fellowship visit regularly. Support is available from the Mosque at Aberdeen, and there are regular visits from the Society of Friends and occasional visits from Buddhists.

8.43 A Church of Scotland Service is given every Sunday and a Roman Catholic Service every Friday. Both of these are well attended. The team holds occasional "prisoner nights" in which prisoners participate in poem recitals, gospel singing, etc. The aim is to hold these every six weeks or so. The prison magazine "Peter Patter", which is now run by prisoners, was a chaplaincy initiative.

8.44 The Chaplaincy Team is fully involved in wider issues within the prison. One member of the team attends the morning management meetings; this is an area of good practice. The team is also a member of the Community Work Party Placement Team, the SHAW Committee, and the Multi-Disciplinary Mental Health Team. They are developing an "Alpha" Course (Faith Awareness). The chaplains felt very well supported by the Governor and the Management Team.

Visiting Committee

8.45 Six of the eight members of the Visiting Committee met with the inspection team. The Committee works in pairs and each month one pair makes two visits. Additionally the committee meets Quarterly.

8.46 The members indicated that complaints and requests to see the visiting Committee are rare and that complaints tend to be related to individual issues. There are no identifiable trends in complaining.

8.47 The Committee highlighted their main concerns as being:

  • the impact of the continued uncertainty about the future of the prison
  • very poor opportunities for prisoners at the end of their sentences to progress
  • lack of opportunities for prisoners to gain qualifications which would improve their employability
  • lack of continuity over access to the work opportunities
  • a perception that the change in the education provider has led to a more haphazard provision of learning

8.48 The Visiting Committee has a good relationship with Management who they view as being approachable and supportive. In turn the chair of the Committee sits on a local Community Forum and supports the prison's efforts to find some opportunities for prisoners to be tested in the local community.