Report on HMP Shotts Inspection 21 August - 1 September 2017


HM Chief Inspector of Prisons for Scotland, David Strang, today launches his report of an inspection of HMP Shotts carried out in August and September 2017.

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

"HMP Shotts was a calm and well-ordered prison.  Both prisoners and staff told Inspectors that they felt safe in the prison, with most prisoners stating that the good relationships that existed between staff and prisoners were responsible for that sense of safety. 

It was of particular note that HMP Shotts occupies a unique position in Scotland as the only prison exclusively for long term prisoners.  Of the 531 prisoners at the time of the inspection, 312 (over 60% of those held) were sentenced to over ten years’ imprisonment or were subject to life sentences.

One growing concern, however, related to the reported increase in the use of Novel Psychoactive Substances (NPS).  Prisoners and staff informed us that they were anxious about the unpredictable behaviour which the use of NPS led to, creating heightened concerns about personal safety and well-being.  It should be noted that this is not an emerging issue solely within HMP Shotts; it is one that is becoming more evident in a number of Scottish prisons.

An area of particular note was the National Integration Centre (NIC), a national facility designed to assist prisoners at the beginning long sentences to adjust to life in prison.  This is achieved through suitably designed and individualised activities for each prisoner.  Within the NIC the operation of a Personal Officer scheme appeared to operate at an optimal level.  Similarly, the staff who worked in the Separation and Reintegration Unit demonstrated a high level of commitment and skill in working with the often troubled and challenging prisoners located there.

In relation to health care provision, health improvement services were excellent, with a clear commitment to providing education and support to improve the health of the prison population.  However, the absence of regular GP cover diminished the provision of healthcare.

It was somewhat concerning that there was little in place by way of support for prisoners being liberated directly from HMP Shotts, and unlike most other Scottish prisons they had no Throughcare Support Officers.  Given that these prisoners had served sentences of many years, the lack of direct post-release support was particularly marked.

Some encouraging work was being undertaken in partnership with Alzheimer Scotland to establish a “dementia friendly” prison, in order to provide appropriate support for the growing number of older prisoners.

Finally, shortly before this inspection, the contract for the provision of learning and education within the prison had changed from New College Lanarkshire to Fife College.  In the lead-up to this contract transfer, staff concerns and uncertainties about their employment terms had impacted significantly on the staffing complement and resources for the delivery of classes.  In the light of this transfer, HMIPS and Education Scotland will return to HMP Shotts in the first quarter of 2018 to assess its impact."