Private prison in chaos as problems rocket
Kilmarnock discipline record 'appalling'
Stephen Khan, Scotland Editor
Sunday September 1, 2002
Scotland's only private prison has the worst disciplinary record of any jail in the country, according to official figures which
reveal that hundreds of inmates wander unauthorised around the facility.
With Justice Minister Jim Wallace due to outline his blueprint for the future of the prison system this week, the revelation is seen
by those against the establishment of more 'prisons for pounds' as proof that they do not work. Wallace had been expected to
authorise the construction of at least two new private jails in the Central Belt.
The report, based on figures supplied by the Scottish Prison Service, which exposed Kilmarnock's poor record, examined the
disciplinary records of all local prisons and showed the Ayrshire jail, run by Premier Prisons, had a massive 3,634 disciplinary
offences in 2001-02 compared with 1,262 at Edinburgh and 1,738 at Barlinnie, which has almost twice as many inmates as Kilmarnock.
An even starker picture of life inside Kilmarnock is drawn by the number of unauthorised absences and appearances around the
jail. Over the past year 1,545 prisoners were found in sections of the prison they were not supposed to be in or failed to report to
areas where and when they were expected. In Barlinnie, there were only 13 cases of this offence in 2001-2002. Prisoners in
Perth were the second-worst offenders and that prison reported just 108 absentees or wanderers.
The records stretch back to 1999 and show that Kilmarnock has consistently had poorer discipline than the public-sector prisons.
Its prisoners also possess more unauthorised material than any others in Scotland, start more fires and damage or destroy more
property than inmates elsewhere.
SNP leader John Swinney, an opponent of the private system, said: 'Next week the Justice Minister will tell the Scottish
Parliament his vision for the Prison Service. These figures offer him a stark choice: he can either choose a well-run public
system with dedicated and professional staff or can choose the
model of organised chaos represented by HMP Kilmarnock.
'It is inexplicable how Kilmarnock can log over 1,500 incidents of unauthorised absences among inmates - seven times greater
than every other local prison in Scotland combined. The image is one of inmates literally doing what they please and treating
the prison more like a hotel than a penal complex.
'It is quite staggering that prisons such as Barlinnie, where staff are forced to work in Victorian conditions, can outperform
Kilmarnock, the newest prison in Scotland. Across the board, from vandalism and arson to possession of unauthorised
substances, HMP Kilmarnock is the worst jail in Scotland.
'Private prisons don't work. Kilmarnock proves that. The Justice Minister must now see sense and stop this local problem
becoming a national disaster.'
The Scottish Executive's prisons strategy was expected to involve the closure of Peterhead prison and the establishment of new
private ventures, but sources close to the Justice Minister have indicated that, following a vigorous campaign, Peterhead will survive.
It is also being indicated that he may avoid going down the full-blown private route and opt for partnerships that see private
firms build the prison and run catering and healthcare operations, while the Scottish Prison Service keeps control of security.
In July, civil servants were instructed to examine how such prisons work in France and Belgium.
However, Stephen Nathan, editor of Prison Privatisation Report International, said: 'If you leave catering and healthcare to the
private sector and a company cuts costs, then prisoners can end up malnourished and more likely to cause disciplinary problems.'
These schemes often leave rehabilitation programmes to private companies and Kilmarnock has been criticised by the Scottish
Parliament's Justice One Committee for having inmates painting gnomes to prepare them for reintegration into the outside world.
More than half of all prisoners reoffend within two years of being released.
Nathan advised the Justice Committee, which rejected the Executive's use of Kilmarnock as a model prison. He added: 'These
figures are dynamite and clearly demonstrate why private prisons are not a viable solution for Scotland.'
The desire to appear tough on crime but fiscally prudent was creating problems for politicians, Nathan said, adding that the
Executive should try to reduce the number of people in prison. There are around 6,000 people in jail in Scotland and about half
of these are there because they have not paid fines, he said.