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HM Inspectorate of Prisons: Report on HMP Inverness: Unannounced Full Inspection, 5-9 November 2007

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5. CONTACT

Outcome

Good contact with family and friends is maintained

5.1 Not met. The visits room is poor; booking arrangements are patchy; there is very little information for visitors; and there is no opportunity for families to participate in induction.

Family Contact

5.2 Arrangements for maintaining family contact are not good, despite Inverness being a 'local' prison. There is no family strategy in place. There is no literature available to take away in the visits waiting room and much of the literature and leaflets on the notice boards were out of date (some by 10 years). There are no dedicated family bonding sessions for children.

5.3 No regular meetings are held between the FCDOs and families and families are not invited to participate in the induction process. FCDO forms are not available in the visits waiting area or at the gate, although some were available in the residential areas. The FCDOs now attend the Suicide Risk Management Group and had recently started to attend the National Family Contact Development Forum.

5.4 The location of the prison can cause difficulties in terms of distance and travelling times, with some families travelling by boat or plane. Facilities when they arrive are poor. There is no fresh drinking water available and no hot food. The drinks machine in the visits area was empty, and had been for some months. Visitors felt that this aspect of the visits experience was particularly poor.

5.5 It is recommended that arrangements for maintaining family contact are improved as highlighted and that the whole family strategy is reviewed.

5.6 Visiting arrangements are as follows:-

5.7 Remand and convicted Young Offenders have visits every weekday afternoon between 1.30pm and 3.30pm with an evening session available on a Tuesday. A Saturday visit session is also available.

5.8 Convicted prisoners have visits every weekday evening from 6.45pm to 8.45pm with an afternoon session on a Tuesday and Sunday.

5.9 Male and female prisoners receive their visitors at the same time in the visits area. This has created no difficulties.

5.10 Visit sessions last for 30 minutes. However, there is no booking system in place. Visitors spoken to highlighted that this can cause problems as they may have to wait up to an hour after arriving at the prison, particularly at weekends. They also raised the point that if they were travelling a significant distance, an hour long visit session would enhance the experience, again particularly at weekends. However this was not available due to the volume of visitors. Visit sessions at weekends were highlighted as being particularly busy with some visitors stating these sessions were regularly shortened due to processing the high numbers. However, prisoners spoken to who received visits (a large number of families did not visit due to distance) felt that they were receiving their visit entitlement.

The Visits Room

5.11 The visits room itself was clean and tidy. The main concern is the size of both the waiting and visits rooms. The visits room is too small and cramped with only eight prisoners being able to participate at each visit session. When the room is full it is very noisy with very little privacy. Supervision cannot be discrete. No crèche facilities are available although a small area at the back of the room holds a selection of books and games for children. A children's cartoon frieze had been added to the wall to try and make this area more child friendly. However the size of the visit room restricts the amount of free movement that a child can make, particularly when the room is full. The visits waiting room is also very small and does not have enough seats to accommodate visitors. Some visitors said that they felt "intimidated" when in the waiting room for any length of time. It is recommended that a new visits facility is created.

Information

5.12 There is very little information about the visiting arrangements available.

Searching

5.13 Security arrangements for visitors on entry to the establishment are thorough. A random number were searched prior to entry to the visits area.

Communications

5.14 Prisoners in all of the residential areas (with the exception of 'C' wing) have access to telephones within their living area. Prisoners in 'C' wing are able to access two telephones in 'B' hall Recreational Area. However, there is not always an officer available to escort them at the times when they would like to call a family member. A number also commented that whilst access was available this was during recreation times and background noise could be very loud. A telephone should be installed in 'C' wing. A number of telephones in use are red telephone boxes, the others had canopies. Prisoners are told during the induction process that their calls will be monitored. Information notices relating to this are available in every 'phone booth.

5.15 A robust process is in place to ensure that the handling of all correspondence is dealt with by the minimum amount of people and that those handling mail are trained. A weekly audit has been implemented to ensure that this can be monitored.

5.16 Prisoners are able to purchase first and second class stamps from the canteen and there is no limit to the number of letters they can send. All mail coming into the prison is delivered to the prisoner on the day of receipt. Mail is sorted and transported to the halls for distribution usually during the lunch time period. When letters are opened, this is done in the presence of the prisoner.

5.17 A number of the information notices within the establishment are out of date. Also of concern is the signage of rooms which could be confusing for prisoners and staff: for example the "Day Care Room" is now used as the Orderly Room and is also the Residential Managers Office. The "Cog Skills Room" is now used for a number of other activities and has not been used for Cognitive Skills for seven years. The signage should be updated.