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HM Inspectorate of Prisons: Report on HMP Shotts Inspection 12-16 February 2007




2.1 Shotts holds adult male convicted prisoners. Most are long-term prisoners although there are now a small number of prisoners serving short-term sentences of less than four years. Shotts has the highest proportion (more than 50%) of life sentence prisoners of any prison in Scotland.

2.2 The design capacity is 528 and the prison is currently contracted to hold up to 516 prisoners with 12 contingency places. This will increase in the near future to 528 when 12 places are created in an Independent Living Unit in the former Shotts Unit.

2.3 There are six separate accommodation areas described below. On the first day of inspection the following numbers were unlocked: -

National Induction Centre


'B' Hall


'C' Hall


'D' Hall


Kerr House


Segregation Unit




2.4 The main 'catchment area' for Shotts is West Central Scotland. However, as a national long-term prison with a hall for non-sex offender prisoners on protection it provides spaces on an as required basis to other mainstream prisons and local prisons from throughout Scotland. On that basis Shotts holds prisoners from all eight Community Justice Authority Areas.

2.5 The National Induction Centre is a national facility for all prisoners sentenced to ten years or more, excluding sex offenders. Prisoners will spend time in the NIC before being allocated to one of the long-term prisons. Recently, a high proportion of those who have passed through the NIC have stayed in Shotts. There are three reasons for this. Firstly, they fall into the 'catchment area'. Secondly they have requested to stay in Shotts despite the fact that they would be closer to home in one of the other mainstream prisons. This is usually because they have settled into the way of life in Shotts and their family are able to maintain contact with them in spite of the distance they travel for visits. The case conferencing system in place shows clearly that prisoners are involved in the decision regarding their location. Thirdly, both Glenochil and Perth prisons have been subject to significant building work in the last few years, reducing their ability to take prisoners who would normally have been allocated to them.

Accommodation Areas

2.6 The residential units are described below. The Segregation Unit is described elsewhere in this report.

Kerr House

2.7 Kerr House is the local top end for Shotts. It has 59 cells on three floors. It unlocked 46 prisoners on the first day of the inspection. All of the prisoners living there are sentenced to more than four years, have served a significant part of their sentence and have progressed from the mainstream halls in Shotts. At the time of inspection Kerr House was preparing to become a national top-end facility, replacing the "Pentland" regime in HMP Edinburgh. A small number of prisoners had already arrived from Edinburgh in preparation for this change.

2.8 Kerr House has CCTV coverage in all communal areas. Prisoners' cell doors are not locked during patrol periods to allow them to access the communal toilets in their section. Each section on each floor has a grille gate which is locked to create a secure zone. Prisoners on the ground floor have a shower inside their section which they can use during patrol periods. Prisoners in the upstairs sections do not have this facility.

2.9 There is single cell accommodation throughout Kerr House. Cells are well equipped, although some of the furniture is old and broken. Each cell has electrical power and lockable cabinets. Cells are spacious and windows allow in lots of natural light. Windows also open wide allowing in lots of fresh air. Every cell has a chair and some of the larger cells have a table. Cells without tables have a unit with a desk arrangement built in.

2.10 Some cells, particularly on the top floor, are in need of repair and decoration. There are cracks in the ceilings, leaking windows and signs of water ingress. These issues should be addressed as a matter of urgency.

2.11 Prisoners are responsible for the cleanliness of cells, and the standard was generally high. Cleaning equipment and materials are readily available. Communal areas were also very clean and tidy.

2.12 Prisoners receive visits in a small visit room within Kerr House. The room is very comfortable. Prisoners spoke very positively about the visit experience. Recreation and gym facilities are also excellent. There is a larger recreation room with snooker, table tennis, and a communal seating area with a large screen television. The gym caters for those who want to do circuit training and weights. It is open at all times of unlock and prisoners not at work can attend.

National Induction Centre, 'B' Hall, 'C' Hall and 'D' Hall

2.13 The National Induction Centre ( NIC) houses prisoners at the beginning of very long sentences (10 years to Life). It has a regime set up to help prisoners cope with the particular problems that can arise during that phase of imprisonment. Some prisoners can stay in the NIC for up to two years, but the average stay is around one year.

2.14 'B' and 'C' Halls are the mainstream halls. They house prisoners who have come through the NIC or arrived in Shotts from a local prison, usually Barlinnie or Edinburgh.

2.15 'D' Hall is a non-sex offender protection unit. It houses a mixture of short and long-term prisoners who have asked to be removed from circulation for their own protection. This can be for a variety of reasons.

2.16 These four halls are almost identical in size and design. All have three floors with two sections on each floor. All cells are designed for one prisoner and always hold only one prisoner. Two cells in 'B' and 'D' Halls are kept for observation purposes.

2.17 All cells have wash hand basins, electrical power and lockable cabinets. Every cell has a television with access to a DVD channel, a satellite channel (controlled from a central point), and the five terrestrial channels. There is a large recreation area in the entrance corridor to each hall. It has table tennis, snooker, pool and darts and is available to prisoners in the evenings and at the weekends. There are also offices and interview rooms in each hall, so arranging meetings or interviews is easier in Shotts than in most other prisons.

2.18 All of the cells still have toilets which are unscreened. This means that the person living in the cell sleeps, eats and watches the television in full view of the toilet. It is recommended that when a toilet is located inside a cell it should be screened.

2.19 Furniture in cells consists of a bed, a wall unit with a built-in desk and wardrobe and a chair. The cells are reasonably spacious. Windows allow in lots of natural light but most windows have a restrictor fitted that only allows it to open a few centimetres. Staff said this was to reduce the amount of litter thrown out and to stop prisoners being able to 'scoop in' illicit articles thrown into the area outside the halls. Windows facing the exercise yard do not have restrictors and there is enough litter thrown out of these windows to require the yards to be cleared every day. Ideally a method should be found which stops litter being thrown out of the windows which do not have restrictors and illicit articles being scooped in, but still lets in sufficient fresh air.

2.20 Each section on each floor has its own ablutions area. Showers are available during association periods. There is also a room in each section which has been set up as a small dining area.

2.21 The standard of decoration and cleanliness in communal areas was generally good. However, there were some signs in a few areas that some cleaners did not fulfil all of their duties to the highest standard: cupboards were sometimes very untidy and rubbish was accumulating in corridors out of the sight of the main areas. Staff should check rigorously that the hall cleaners are fulfilling all of their duties to the highest standard.

2.22 The standard of cleanliness and decoration in cells was variable. In the NIC in particular it was clear that some cells had not been decorated for years and were showing signs of deterioration. No matter how clean the cell is kept, the paint flaking off the walls and the drabness of the decoration makes the cells depressing places to live. This is not helpful given the purpose of the NIC.

2.23 It was clear that cleaning equipment and materials were available for prisoners. Some took advantage of that and lived in clean, bright cells. Others were dark and dreary. All prisoners should be encouraged to keep their cells as clean as possible.

Exercise Areas

2.24 Each residential area has its own exercise yard. All of the yards are spacious and allow prisoners good access to the open air every day. Although a lot of litter is thrown out of cell and ablutions area windows into the yards they were all clean and tidy during the inspection. The yards are cleared every day.

2.25 Exercise times are fixed and always observed by staff. Prisoners can associate freely during the exercise period. In inclement weather a few coats are available on a first come first served basis. This is a well-established practice in the Segregation Unit but has only been recently introduced to the other areas. This should be extended to allow as many prisoners as possible access to the open air regardless of the weather.

2.26 Prisoners in the Segregation Unit exercise in a smaller yard on their own. There are three of these smaller yards in the Segregation Unit, separated by high fencing and walls. Prisoners in segregation can request to have their exercise period at the same time as an acquaintance. Staff will accommodate this as far as is possible, safe and practicable.

2.27 When time permits prisoners in the Segregation Unit can receive a second exercise period in the open air. The decision to allow this is made by the segregation unit staff and is based on demand and behaviour. Given the spartan nature of the regime in a segregation unit this is an area of good practice.

2.28 Overall, the facilities and arrangements for exercise in the open air are good.


2.29 The kitchen is centrally located and food is transported in heated trolleys through covered walkways to five of the six residential areas and through an external yard to Kerr House.

2.30 Prisoners pre-order their meals from a menu which includes options for special needs and healthy eating. However, even if a prisoner chose every option that included fresh fruit or vegetables it would still not be possible to receive the five portions a day recommended by the Scottish Executive.

2.31 When a prisoner has a particular medical or cultural need an individualised menu will be created for him. This happens infrequently. Two appropriately trained and qualified Muslim prisoners prepare Muslim diets. They have their own equipment and work in a separate part of the kitchen. The arrangement works well.

2.32 The kitchen is modern with adequate equipment and space to provide meals for more than 500 prisoners. It employs up to 30 prisoners with around 20 on duty at any one time. Raw materials are ordered, delivered and stored based on the predicted needs calculated from the advance choices indicated by prisoners. This reduces waste and allows the prison to more systematically manage what needs to be stored.

2.33 Shotts makes its own bread, rolls and pie cases. This is a good cost saving exercise and allows the prison to transfer resources and add variety to the menu. Prisoners spoke very positively about the quality of the bread in particular.

2.34 Breakfast is a pre-bagged continental style meal, issued with a small carton of milk. It was reported that some prisoners threw the breakfast packs away. This is wasteful and causes litter. The prison should consider dispensing cereal in a way which reduces waste. Lunch and dinner have three choices of main course with either soup or a sweet. The sweet is often a piece of fruit. Some prisoners said that when the number of choices went from two to three the quality dropped.

2.35 Although the SPS provides the same catering budget guidance to Shotts as every other prison, £1.57 per prisoner per day, the Governor has allocated an extra 10p per prisoner per day from other budgets. The catering manager believes this has helped to improve quality and portion sizes.

2.36 However, despite the increase in budget, 'indifference' is an appropriate term to describe prisoners views on food: "its okay" and "about what you'd expect for £1.57 a day". Inspectors sampled meals and the standard was reasonable. Senior Managers sample meals in the kitchen most days. Senior managers should eat in the halls occasionally.

2.37 The most significant recent improvements in the catering service are in the way food is served and where prisoners can eat. The Prisoner Survey recorded a nine point improvement in "the condition of food when you get it". This results from the move away from meals being issued from heated trolleys on the galleries to serveries in the halls. The servery in 'B' Hall is particularly clean. Chips are also cooked on site to make them fresher.

2.38 A new arrangement introduced just prior to the inspection was the creation of small dining rooms in each section of the NIC, and in 'B', 'C' and 'D' Halls. It is unfortunate that prisoners appear to have chosen not to use them to date. The dining room in Kerr House is very good.

2.39 There is some training available to prisoners working in the kitchen. An induction to the kitchen is provided to all new workers and once they have settled in they can do the REHIS Certificate in Elementary Food Hygiene. A refresher course is provided every six months. The prison no longer provides any SVQ training.

2.40 Every prisoner arriving in Shotts is seen during induction by a member of staff from the catering department. They receive an introduction to food hygiene training. This covers basic food storage and hygiene matters. Prisoners often keep items such as milk in their cell. Unlike prisoners in Cornton Vale they are not allowed to have small refrigerators in their cells.

2.41 A Food Focus Group meets quarterly. Minutes from these meetings indicated that they did influence menu choices and were a good catalyst for discussing catering issues. All parts of the prison were represented at the meetings.

2.42 The Catering Department is very creative in organising themes and events. It has a well-established arrangement for prisoners to organise a personalised birthday or anniversary cake which is given in the visits room. Prisoners appreciate this. There have also been theme weeks organised around sporting occasions. Again this is very popular with prisoners.

2.43 The highlight of the year for the catering department was being assessed by independent environmental health inspectors as being up to the "Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points Standard" and receiving the " EATSAFE" award. Shotts is the first prison to be recognised in this way.


2.44 The canteen operates a 'bag and tag' system, managed by four staff. All canteen sheets are given to prisoners on a Monday evening and collected on a Tuesday morning. The goods requested are delivered on a Thursday.

2.45 An inter-hall canteen meeting takes place each month. One prisoner from each hall attends the meeting, with the exception of 'D' Hall which has separate meetings. At these meetings issues such as price changes, new items and items to be removed from the sheet are discussed. Other prisoners can also make suggestions on their canteen sheet which has a space specifically for that purpose. As a result of these initiatives, there is a wide range of goods available. Prisoners are updated, through their canteen sheet, on any new products, price changes and out of stock items. There is a process in place to supply goods which are specifically requested by prisoners from a different cultural background. The canteen is an area of good practice.

Clothing and Laundry

2.46 On admission, prisoners receive a full set of new bedding; a new mattress and pillows; a new set of prison issue clothing; and a 'recycled' set of prison issue clothing. In addition to this, they are allowed some personal items of clothing.

2.47 Prisoners located within 'B' and 'C' Halls, Kerr House and the NIC can have their clothes and bedding laundered five days per week. Prisoners in 'D' Hall can have their clothes laundered four days per week. Prisoners are provided with net laundry bags in which they can place a maximum of ten items. However, some prisoners regularly put more than this in the bag which can result in damp clothing being returned.

2.48 There appears to be a problem with bedding, with only three to four sets being sent to the laundry each day. Duvet covers are being thrown out of some cell and ablutions area windows - approximately 20 per week. These are laundered and sent to Barlinnie or Low Moss, as Shotts will not re-issue them. Instead, prisoners are issued with a new set. Steps should be taken to stop prisoners throwing duvet covers out of the windows, and the practice of automatically issuing new covers in such circumstances should be reviewed.

2.49 The laundry employs 28 prisoners, although there is only enough work for ten. Prisoners receive training in the operation of the machinery although there is no qualification based training available. This should be addressed.