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Scotland: More concerns over for-profit.
MSP slams jail report Dec 30 2003

SNP MSP Alex Neil maintained this week that 'profits and prisons don't mix'. The long term critic of the private Kilmarnock Prison was responding to last week's Standard story highlighting the latest inspector's report on the private jail.

Mr Neil says he still has a number of concerns about the set-up at Bowhouse, which is operated by Premier Prisons for the Scottish Prison Service.

"There are a number of areas that are of great alarm," said Mr Neil, "such as the facilities for those being held on remand, as well as the number of prisoners testing positive for drugs."

According to Mr Neil the report, by HM chief inspector or prisons Dr Andrew McLellan, confirmed that staff turnover at Kilmarnock Prison continued to remain high in comparison to those prisons operated by the Scottish Prison Service.

Turnover has increased to a rate of 18.6 per cent per annum from 14 per cent per annum at the time of the last inspection.

Said Mr Neil: "The report notes that the prison has tried to increase staff retention through a number of incentive based measures but these have not proved as successful as anticipated."

He says the report confirms that some prisoners have concerns that staffing levels on wings don't always provide satisfactory supervisory cover to ensure their safety.

It also notes that there have been four suicides in the prison since the previous inspection.

Said the MSP: "The listener scheme designed to prevent suicide, which has been praised by the inspectorate previously, was criticised for not working as well as it had done due to a decline in the number of listeners from eight to two.

"There is also real cause for concern in the area of those being held on remand."

"The report highlights the fact that boredom is a constant feature of prison life for those held on remand."

"An increase in the prison population since the last inspection has also placed pressure on the accommodation of those on remand, with there being too many remands to fit into one wing."

"Also remands receive less time out of their cell than others in the prison."

Mr Neil says that remand prisoners have also indicated that they have difficulties in accessing and washing clothing, with many indicating that they have had to borrow clothes from other prisoners whilst they washed their own.

"There remains a drugs problem in the prison too," said Mr Neil."

"The positive rate for random drugs testing noted in the report is 21.4 per cent."

"There were also 100 refusals for testing in the year prior to the inspection, with 26 in the month prior to it. The report notes that the number of refusals to take a test continues to pose a problem."

There are a number of other 'miscellaneous problems' in the body of the report which also unsettle Mr Neil.

He says in the area of social work there is a problem in delivering prisoners to arranged locations on time resulting in the cancellation of various social work interviews.

"It was also reported that the satisfaction with healthcare in the prison had fallen. The increase in prisoner numbers has also resulted in there being difficulties in accessing different elements of the regime such as work, various programmes, education and use of the gymnasium," says Mr Neil.

The MSP added: "I have long held to the belief that Kilmarnock Prison operating privately and outwith the Scottish Prison Service has not worked."

" Previously I have indicated my concern at the high number of assaults at the institution and the report of the Prison Inspectorate has highlighted a number of areas continuing to be cause for concern within the prison."

"I am particularly concerned at conditions for remand prisoners. Boredom and a lack of facilities must be addressed quickly."

"There is also an ongoing drugs problem, with around a fifth of those randomly tested testing positive."

"There remains a high number refusing to even give a sample when asked to provide one."

"The message that I take from the report is clear - great improvements are necessary at Kilmarnock Prison."

"I remain convinced that the involvement of the private sector in the running of a prison is not beneficial. Profits and prisons don't mix."

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