Report on HMP Edinburgh 6-17 March 2017

Wednesday, 28 June 2017



HM Chief Inspector of Prisons for Scotland, David Strang, today launches his report of an inspection of HMP Edinburgh carried out in March 2017.

Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Prisons for Scotland, David Strang, said:

“Overall we found HMP Edinburgh to be operating effectively, providing a safe and secure environment for the prisoners and staff.  There were some examples of good performance such as the Visitor Centre and the Family Contact Officers.”

“The complexity of the population mix presented a continuing challenge for those running the prison.  The situation remains unchanged from four years ago, when we last inspected HMP Edinburgh, and we are disappointed that the SPS has not rectified this either locally or nationally.  The result has been an observed restriction in the activities and regime for too many prisoners, reducing the time that was available for them to spend constructively outside their cells.  Staff attendance patterns only served to exacerbate the issue further.”

“There continued to be a need for an effective Personal Officer scheme, to ensure that all prisoners can benefit from support throughout their sentence.  There were insufficient treatment programmes to allow all prisoners to progress through their sentence, resulting in the build-up of a substantial backlog of prisoners waiting for programmes.”

The main findings of David Strang’s report are:

Inspectors found that prisoners and staff in HMP Edinburgh felt generally safe and there was good evidence of positive and respectful relationships throughout the prison.

Healthcare was provided by a well-motivated staff group, who felt they were well supported by their operational colleagues.  The health centre was well equipped and fit for purpose.  Access to clinical services was good, with waiting times comparable to those in the community.

Most purposeful activities conducted in the prison were linked to community and charity groups who benefitted from the products made by prisoners.

Activities offered in the gym were not as dynamic as in other prisons, with potential for greater innovation and engagement with subjects such as health promotion and fitness for older prisoners.

There were various routes that the establishment took to minimise risks, however there was a lack of consistency in managing allegations of bullying or intimidation.  The lack of a national anti-bullying strategy along with the lack of local anti-bullying guidance for managers or staff was a concern.

There were positive arrangements in place to support prisoners in preparation for their return to the community.  However for many people leaving HMP Edinburgh, their need for suitable accommodation upon liberation remained pressing, as well as timeous access to healthcare in the community.

The story of one liberation

Just prior to our inspection a prisoner, who would have presented as homeless on liberation, was released from HMP Edinburgh. Due to their circumstances, the individual was supported by an SPS Throughcare Support Officer (TSO) upon release.

On arrival at the pre-arranged meeting with the housing officer they were informed that no accommodation was available. After some extended dialogue and a considerable wait, the TSO managed to secure a room for the individual in a shared house. However, on arrival at the address the heating was found broken and the toilet was blocked.

The TSO took the individual to a food bank that the TSO had used before, where they knew help would be available.  They then visited a local charity shop to buy a warm jacket as the individual did not own a coat or a jacket. Since the individual was unlikely to have their benefits in place for around 4 weeks and only had a liberation grant to survive on, these visits were essential in supporting the individual to get the best start possible to life in the community.

Thankfully on this occasion, support was available from the TSO. It is difficult to see how a positive outcome for this individual would have been possible without it and we must bear in mind that many prisoners are released without access to the same assistance. Whilst all TSOs across Scotland should be commended for what they achieve in supporting individuals upon release, we ask whether it is appropriate for an SPS employee to provide this level of assistance during the initial stages of release and beyond. Community based organisations have to ensure that they are working jointly with adequate systems and processes that effectively support prisoners during the very challenging transition from custody to community.

The Chief Inspector’s observations

“It is surely not acceptable in 2017 that someone, especially a vulnerable individual, is liberated from prison without a place to stay or the money they require to survive, yet during a number of recent inspections we have seen such instances occurring.”

“The wider criminal justice and welfare systems should take responsibility for ensuring that those liberated from custody are adequately supported - rather than relying on the SPS to routinely undertake these tasks.”

HM Inspectorate of Prisons for Scotland will continue to monitor progress in HMP Edinburgh through regular visits by both the Independent Prison Monitors and the inspection team.

An Executive Summary of the inspection report is attached.