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Inverness jail full but no sign of new facility

By Neil MacPhail

Inverness Prison.
Inverness Prison.

THE Chief Inspector of Prisons says ageing jails like the Victorian one at Inverness have no place in today’s justice system.

In her annual report, Wendy Sinclair is highly concerned about overcrowding in several of Scotland’s jails, including Inverness, and the detrimental effect it has on prisoners and staff.

And she is very concerned at the delay in getting a new prison built in Inverness. There are currently117 inmates at Inverness Prison, 19 more than there should be.

However, the Scottish Government has not allocated capital funding for the proposed new prisons at Inverness, Greenock, Dumfries or Glasgow, said Ms Sinclair.

She is also concerned that the national shortage of NHS healthcare staff is impacting on the Inverness prison population.

She said: “While investment made in new facilities at HMP Low Moss and HMP YOI Grampian is greatly welcomed, there remains an urgent need to progress development of a replacement for HMPs Barlinnie, Greenock and Inverness.

“In a 21st century justice system, Victorian prisons are costly and no longer fit for purpose.”

North Tory MSP Edward Mountain said of the report: “This is a damning assessment and it highlights just how overstretched our prison services have become under this SNP Ggovernment.

“The Justice Secretary has stated before that prisoner overcrowding at HMP Inverness is unacceptable but he remains unwilling to fund the construction of the long-delayed new prison.

“I will continue to pressure the SNP government to invest in essential infrastructure in the Highlands.”

In March 2019, there were 8122 detained in Scotland’s prisons, compared with 7413 the year before, an increase of 709, almost nine per cent – equivalent to one additional large prison.

While staff recruitment and absenteeism were problem areas in some Scottish prisons, she said Inverness was an exception.

The size of the Victorian building brought overcrowding and high costs, but Ms Sinclair-Gieben said they were “quite impressed” with the running of Inverness Prison, thanks to the staff under a “robust” governor, Stephen Coyle.

A government spokeswoman said the report recognised that Scotland’s prisons were generally well run and stable, and she added that the Scottish Government and Scottish Prison Service were committed to modernising and improving our prison estate, and the current priorities are the new female estate, and replacements for Barlinnie and then Inverness.

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