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HM Inspectorate of Prisons: HMP Peterhead: Inspection: 3-4 June 2008



2.1 This report is of a short inspection of HMP Peterhead. The inspection was deliberately limited and does not claim to report on all aspects of the prison. Increasing use of self-assessment has been a feature of prison inspection in recent years: matters drawn to the attention of inspectors by the prison itself form part of the subject of this report. Matters raised in previous inspections, or apparent to inspectors on subsequent visits, also contribute to this report.

2.2 This inspection concentrated on matters of current concern: but it is right to acknowledge that many of the good things referred to in recent reports are still part of the life and culture of Peterhead. Just because the safe environment and the relationships with staff and the food are good at Peterhead they are not the subject of this report.

2.3 During the inspection the announcement was made of the building of a new prison, HMP Grampian, on the site of Peterhead. Uncertainty about the future of the prison has thus been ended, although building will not start for some time. Previous reports have commented on the damage done to HMP Peterhead by continuing uncertainty. One aspect of that damage has been the lack of investment over the last five years at least. Now that a new prison has been announced, it is even less likely that more money will be spent on the existing building: yet its condition continues to deteriorate and prisoners continue to live in it.

2.4 The continuing use of chemical toilets is the most obvious sign of lack of investment in the prison building. Peterhead is the only prison in the United Kingdom where prisoners have no access to toilets when locked in their cells. Some steps have been taken to try to alleviate the impact of slopping out, but its continuation at Peterhead remains "the worst single feature of prisons in Scotland". It is quite lamentable that the words written in the inspection report of 2006 can be written without alteration today. Many reports welcome the improvement of living conditions in prison after prison: but certainly there is no such improvement in Peterhead.

2.5 During the inspection 30 prisoners who should have been at work in the woodworking workshops had not been there for some weeks and would continue not to be at work for weeks. The closure of the workshops can be traced directly to the dilapidated state of the building. The situation is a striking illustration of the importance of maintaining prison buildings. In the woodworking workshops sawdust is extracted into a large skip. When the skip is full a lorry removes it through the back gate of the prison. But when the back gate cannot be opened because the hinges have rusted through, the lorry cannot enter and the skip cannot be removed. No more sawdust can be extracted from the shed: and so work has to stop completely. Because the hinges on the gate are not working, 30 prisoners or more have to be locked in their cells most of the time.

2.6 No doubt this is an exceptional circumstance. But access to work is limited even when the back gate is functioning properly. There are prisoners who have no job; and there are prisoners who have a job but do not always have the opportunity to go to it; and there are prisoners who go to work but do nothing when they are there. Prisoners in Peterhead can spend long hours locked up in their cells doing nothing; and at weekends they all certainly do spend long hours locked up in their cells doing nothing.

2.7 Previous reports have also criticised the preparation for release of prisoners at Peterhead. The criticism has been - and continues to be - in two forms. One is the absence of community placements which would allow some testing in the community before prisoners are released. The other is about the small number of prisoners who participate in the " SOTP" programme: the programme designed to address the offending behaviour of sex offenders. The number of places on the SOTP programme available at Peterhead can do nothing to address the number of prisoners waiting to participate. Prisoners who have been convicted of serious sex offences are the very prisoners who should get the best possible preparation for release. This report makes it clear that they are still, no matter how many reports are written, the prisoners who get the worst preparation for release.

2.8 Some of these continuing difficulties are related to the shortage of staff at Peterhead. There are 28 fewer members of staff than there should be; 13% of the staff total is simply not there.

2.9 There is a noticeable improvement in health care. Staffing difficulties have been addressed and the morale of both nursing and medical staff is high. Nurse led clinics ensure proper provision for prisoners with chronic diseases: this provision is well supported by residential staff. The vast majority of prisoners are responsible for the administration of their own medication. It is not appropriate, however, that, since a nurse is always present during a GP consultation, nothing is done to ensure that prisoners are aware that they can have private consultations with a GP.

2.10 Since the last inspection Peterhead now offers the same Enhanced Addiction Service as all other prisons. The service is new, but there are encouraging signs of the effectiveness of this development. There is a case-load of 87 prisoners.