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HM Inspectorate of Prisons: Report on HMP Perth

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1. PREAMBLE

1.1 Perth prison has been undergoing a major rebuild over the last five years. At the time of the inspection major construction was still underway. Management and staff have coped exceptionally well with running the prison during this period of reconstruction.

1.2 This full inspection also included an inspection of nearby Friarton hall, a "top end" establishment for young offenders who have progressed through HMYOI Polmont. Friarton hall is, however, part of Perth. A full inspection of Friarton was carried out in November 2008 as part of an inspection of young offenders in adult establishments. The majority of the findings in this current report relate to Perth prison, although there are important aspects about Friarton which are included.

1.3 The overall inspection of Perth concludes that it is a very well led and managed prison. There is consequently a distinct feeling of "unity of effort" from the most senior to most junior members of staff. The effect of this on the prisoners appears to be very positive; the staff/prisoner relationship in Perth is particularly good ( chapter 4).

1.4 Perth has many examples of 'good practice' and these are listed at chapter 10. I also highlight good living conditions; excellent visit facilities, including the Visitor Centre and contacts with family and friends; good opportunities to participate in education and work; and excellent healthcare facilities. Everyone is focused on trying to help prisoners and meet their needs.

1.5 There are, of course, areas for improvement. The number of prisoners testing positive for illegal substances on liberation seems high. The First Night Centre, although a good start, needs to reach its full potential (paragraph 3.28). Food, at the point of serving could be improved (paragraph 2.28); the laundry should be improved (paragraphs 2.36 and 2.37); and more information should be available to non-English speaking prisoners (paragraph 4.19). Prisoners leaving the prison early to go to court do not always receive a proper breakfast, do not have the opportunity to shower, and do not always receive prescribed medication. Prisoners returning late from court should have a hot meal on return (paragraph 3.10). The conditions in Perth Sheriff Court and Dundee Sheriff Court are poor.

1.6 I have some reservations about Friarton hall. It seemed to me that the positive effects of strong leadership, so evident in the main prison, were less obvious at Friarton with the result that we found a less well managed unit (paragraph 2.16). This may have been due to the air of uncertainty surrounding the future of the hall.

1.7 Friarton is also not producing sufficiently good results to attract more young offenders from Polmont; it may be that the criteria for progress are too challenging. A number of the prisoners felt that going to Friarton was a backward step from Polmont, and that may be why it was less than half full. There is also insufficient gainful employment. Friarton is dirty, unkempt and run down. It needs to be completely refurbished. On the other hand I was impressed by the standard of the external work placements available to some of the young offenders.

1.8 Overall, this is a positive report and I have been impressed by so many areas of good practice, particularly given all of the disruption caused by the building works. Conditions have improved significantly in Perth since the 2005 full inspection.