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HM Inspectorate of Prisons: Report on HMP Perth




Prisoners are held in conditions that provide the basic necessities of life and health, including adequate air, light, water, exercise in the fresh air, food, bedding and clothing.

2.1 The basic necessities are met. The three halls in the main prison are very clean and excellent arrangements are in place for exercise; changing bedding; and laundering clothes. The food is very good in Friarton, but the hall is very dirty and in need of refurbishment.


2.2 Perth is the local prison for Tayside and most of Fife. It houses remand, short-term and long-term male prisoners. Friarton hall provides a national "top end" facility for low supervision young offenders on transfer from Polmont.

2.3 The prison has a design capacity of 722. On the 4 th December 2009 it held 645 prisoners. This figure comprised 123 untried adults, 12 untried young remands, 466 convicted adults and 44 young offenders. The low occupancy stems mainly from low numbers of young offenders in Friarton (which was holding less than half of its capacity), which in turn was creating uncertainty about the future of that hall.

Accommodation Areas

2.4 The establishment has been in the process of being redeveloped over the last five years. Most of the halls have been refurbished. It is currently undergoing phase three of this programme which includes estates, stores, a new entrance, visits and staff facilities, admission services and a Human Resource Suite.

2.5 Perth has four residential halls and a segregation unit.

'A' Hall

2.6 'A' Hall has been divided into two distinct parts: with the two upper floors being completely separate from the bottom two. There are 73 cells which can hold two prisoners, one cell for disabled prisoners and one cell for prisoners at risk of self-harm. Adult prisoners on protection are held on levels 3 and 4 with young and adult remands on levels 1 and 2. Part of level 2 provides a First Night in Custody Centre which can deal with up to 22 prisoners (see paragraphs 3.25 to 3.29 for details). The high risk and disabled cells are located on level 1.

2.7 Prisoners requesting protection go to 'B' hall for a 72 hour assessment period and only when it is considered appropriate are they allocated to 'A' hall level 3 or 4. This process identifies prisoners who are genuinely in need of protection and also identifies appropriate accommodation for those who are unsuitable but see protection as their favoured option. This 72 hour assessment period is an area of good practice.

2.8 The standard of accommodation in 'A' Hall is acceptable. It is very clean, and there is no graffiti or litter. Some of the furniture is in a poor condition, although a local refurbishment programme is underway. To date 17 cells have been painted and fitted with new furniture. All cells have toilets and electric power. Recreation equipment is sparse and in poor condition. Facilities for recreation should be improved.

2.9 Cell windows offer adequate ventilation. Mattresses and bedding are in a good condition and the laundry provides a good service. Not all prisoners have access to a chair within their cells. There are eight telephones and all have notices explaining that calls will be recorded. Two of the telephones have no privacy hoods.

2.10 The hall has two serveries which are in a reasonable condition and are kept clean. However, the design of the hall means that prisoners are not able to dine in association.

'B' Hall

2.11 'B' Hall has 60 cells which can hold one prisoner and 73 cells for two prisoners. The single cell capacity includes four anti-ligature cells, none of which were occupied at the time of the inspection. The hall holds mainly short-term and untried adults.

2.12 The standard of accommodation in 'B' hall is good, and it is clear that maintaining the high standards of living conditions is important for the prisoners living there. All cells have a toilet and electric power, and good access to natural light and ventilation. The hall and cells are all very clean and there is no graffiti. One cell has recently been completely renovated, and is being used to set the minimum standard for the hall. However, not all prisoners have access to a chair within the double cells, which can be cramped. Recreation facilities are basic and should be improved. Each floor has six showers which are maintained to a high standard. Access to clean clothing, towels and bed linen is very good.

'C' Hall

2.13 'C' hall is a new build accommodation block. The hall is designed to hold 365 prisoners, with a contingency of 20 bunk beds if required. It is disturbing to note that a number of cells in the new accommodation which have specifically and deliberately been designed to hold one prisoner, have had bunk beds installed in order to hold two prisoners. We consider this to be a retrograde step and have serious concerns that the consequent size of the available living space, discounting the toilet area, falls below an acceptable minimum standard for two occupants. The hall holds convicted prisoners on four floors. The accommodation includes two buddy cells, two safer cells and two cells for disabled prisoners. Cells are of a high standard, with a toilet and electric power. The standard of furniture, bedding and mattresses is good. Showers are available on all floors. There are two food serveries on each floor and central seating to enable prisoners to dine in association. This is well used. There are six telephones on each floor, one of which is lower for prisoners with a disability. All have hoods and notices. Recreation facilities are basic.

2.14 The hall is very clean and tidy with the exception of the anti-ligature cells. When the anti-ligature cells are vacated they should be cleaned as a matter of course.

Friarton Hall

2.15 Friarton hall is located approximately one mile from the main establishment and currently houses young offenders who have a low supervision level. It is considered to be a 'top end' for young offenders. Although Friarton is a hall of Perth prison, it is self-sufficient from the main prison and has its own workshops, visit room, gym and education unit. At the time of inspection there were 44 young offenders being held: less than 50% of the hall's capacity. The hall has two wings with a design capacity of 89: 19 cells for one prisoner and 35 cells for two.

2.16 All cells have adequate furnishings and electric power. However, the cells are drab and double cells are cramped. Some young offenders described cell accommodation as damp. Cells do not have toilets although there is ready access to communal facilities including ablutions and showers. Young offenders described the showers as "appalling". The observation panels on most of the cell doors were covered up : these observation panels should be kept clear at all times. There are two telephones in each wing. At the time of inspection some of the display screens were so damaged that prisoners could not see how much credit they had left. There is no access to the telephones outwith unlock periods. Recreation takes place in the dining room and in the wings. There was little evidence of any imaginative thinking with regards to stimulating the young offenders during recreation apart from a quiz organised by a manager during the weekend afternoons. Young offenders said that the facilities for recreation at Polmont were much better. Young offenders have access to the gym most weekday evenings. The small library, although accessed, should be improved.

2.17 Friarton hall had had an infestation of vermin just before the inspection and the smell of disinfectant fluid was still evident. Despite, this infestation, the standard of overall cleanliness throughout the hall was poor and fell far short of the high standards in the main establishment. Young offenders employed to clean the communal areas did not have any formal industrial cleaning training and on the day of inspection no-one was cleaning even though it was only halfway through the working period. The dining hall was very dirty and does not provide a good facility for recreation. There was food debris on the pool table, and it was obvious that YOs had been smoking in the dining hall. Deposits of food were on the wall and floor. During the serving of a meal it was noticed that several of the plates were not clean or dry.

2.18 The visit room is well appointed and provides a relaxed family friendly facility.

2.19 Very few young offenders were employed in the workshops, even though staff reported a healthy order book. During one visit late in the morning staff were congregating in offices and a significant number on YOs were lying in bed. Staff supervision seemed to be inadequate and there was little evidence of management monitoring. It is recommended that young offenders in Friarton hall are more gainfully employed.

2.20 There is some uncertainty amongst staff and prisoners about the future use of Friarton hall and this appears to be having a detrimental effect on the regime and relationships between staff and prisoners.

2.21 The standards in Friarton hall have deteriorated significantly since the Inspectorate carried out its inspection of young offenders in adult establishments in November 2008. The conditions in which young offenders are living are not sufficiently good. It is recommended that Friarton hall is completely refurbished.

Segregation Unit

2.22 The segregation unit is a modern design with fourteen ordinary cells, one silent cell and one safer cell. At the time of the inspection there were nine prisoners being held there. All cells have fixed furniture and a bed. Each cell has electric power and a toilet, although the toilets are not enclosed, despite prisoners eating their meals in their cells. Toilets should be enclosed. There are hand washing facilities.

2.23 The regime meets the basic requirements of time in the fresh air, a daily shower and access to a small fitness room. Prisoners who wish to do so can request reading material from the prison library. Some prisoners, depending on the decision of the case conference, may have access to in-cell television

Exercise Areas

2.24 Prisoners in 'A', 'B' and 'C' halls have appropriate access to good sized, safe exercise areas. However, jackets are not available for use in bad weather conditions.

2.25 Prisoners in Friarton hall have access to an astro-turf area. Jackets are not available for use in bad weather conditions.


2.26 The kitchen is clean and all staff and prisoners wear appropriate clothing. There is a limited number of SVQs available. Food hygiene related courses are also available, and residential staff have undertaken this course to allow them to supervise the serveries in the halls.

2.27 The arrangements for the preparation of food are acceptable and the quality of the food is reasonable at the point of cooking. However, it deteriorates when it is transported to the halls. Food is often cold by the time the last prisoner has had his meal. The method of transporting food from the kitchen to the halls should be improved. Prisoners in 'C' hall, and in Friarton hall can dine in association. Prisoners in 'A' and 'B' halls eat in their cells.

2.28 There is a three week rolling menu in place and all prisoners, including remand prisoners, can make their choice in advance. The menu caters for all dietary and faith requirements. Healthy, vegetarian and Halal choices are highlighted on the menus. A choice of fruit is available with each evening meal and prisoners can choose to have vegetables as part of every meal. This is an area of good practice . The kitchen produces menus in the two most common foreign languages in the prison. This is an area of good practice.

2.29 Lunch is served at around 11.45hrs. The evening meal is served between 16.15 and 16.45 everyday. Breakfast is served at 07.30hrs. A breakfast is also served at weekends.

2.30 The food in Friarton is served straight from the kitchen to the adjacent dining area, and is well received by young offenders.

2.31 Food focus groups are held every month. These have good prisoner representation and minutes are taken and distributed. Senior managers also regularly report about the quality of the food in the halls.

2.32 The SPS Prisoner Survey found that 60% of prisoners considered the food to be OK or better.


2.33 The arrangements for prisoners' canteen are 'bag and tag'. All prisoners have good access to the canteen. The system is computerised, stock control is maintained efficiently and any discrepancy in a prisoner's order is dealt with quickly.

2.34 The stock room itself is located in a temporary location while the establishment is being redeveloped, but it contains a good range of items. Prices are very fair. Convicted prisoners also have the opportunity to buy a range of items through sundry purchases.

Clothing and Laundry

2.35 The laundry is located on the ground floor of the regimes building. It is poorly designed and very cramped. The large number of laundry barrels being moved around the area to ensure fire exits are clear does not help. The laundry facility should be improved.

2.36 In previous years prisoners working in the laundry could achieve certification. The size of the current facility means that this is no longer viable and no qualifications have been achieved since the laundry moved to this new site, despite officers still being approved to deliver vocational qualifications. The lack of certification available in the laundry should be reviewed.

2.37 Despite the size of the laundry, systems and processes are very good and prisoners can have their clothes washed every day if they want. The process for replacing old clothing and mattresses is also well organised.