HMIP Inspection of the Open Estate

Prison - Return Visit Inspection Report
Open Estate

Executive Summary


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1. Introduction

2. Context of the Inspection

3. Main Findings

4. Conclusions

5. Castle Huntly: Progress on Points of Note


Section 7 of the Prisons (Scotland) Act 1989, as amended by the Scotland Act 1998, provides the statutory basis for the Chief Inspector of Prisons for Scotland, and in particular the requirement to submit an Annual Report to the Scottish Ministers. This is laid before the Scottish Parliament and published.

It is the duty of the Chief Inspector to inspect or arrange for the inspection of prisons in Scotland and to report to the Scottish Ministers on them. Each of Scotland's 16 penal establishments currently receives a full formal inspection, on a cyclical basis, every 3 1/ 2-4 years. Full inspections take between a week and a fortnight depending on the size and complexity of the establishment, during which all aspects of the establishment are examined from the point of view of safety, decency, and the establishment's contribution to crime prevention. Security, discipline, control and efficiency are also examined. The Inspectorate also takes account of requirements, policies and concepts applying to the Scottish Prison Service.

Inspection reports aim to give a balanced account of conditions in the establishment, reflecting good practice and areas for improvement, as they are found.

When completed, the reports are sent directly to Scottish Ministers and are not subject to negotiation with Governors or the Scottish Prison Service. In due course, a Ministerial response is normally published along with the report. The Chief Inspector has no executive powers but is able to draw Ministers' attention to any aspects of a penal establishment which call for comment, whilst the publicity which the Chief Inspector's reports attract can be an instrument for change.

Full inspection reports are followed up in subsequent years by intermediate inspections, and these are sent to the Governor and to the Chief Executive of the Scottish Prison Service. The Inspectorate also undertakes occasional studies on a theme common to all or several penal establishments.

The Chief Inspector receives professional support from 2 senior Governors from the Scottish Prison Service who are seconded to the posts of Deputy Chief Inspector and Inspector. A Scottish Executive civil servant completes the main Inspectorate team. A number of lay consultants and researchers also contribute to the inspection process.

The Inspectorate is also responsible for inspecting legalised police cells which are used to hold prisoners awaiting trial locally in isolated areas or, following conviction, pending transfer to a main prison. Inspections are carried out every 3 years, with reports being submitted to the Scottish Ministers sent to all Chief Constables concerned and published.

The Chief Inspector is not an Ombudsman and cannot deal with individual complaints by prisoners or staff. But groups of prisoners and groups of staff are interviewed during each formal inspection, their general views are recorded, and may form a basis for recommendations or suggestions for improvement.

Any enquiries or comments about the Inspectorate should be directed in the first instance to:-

HM Prisons Inspectorate

Room M1/6

Saughton House


0131 244 8481

Broomhouse Drive


0131 244 8446



EH11 3XD



1.1 This report on HM Prisons Castle Huntly and Noranside is the first from the Inspectorate since the decision was taken to integrate the two sites. As such it is a different kind of report from those produced previously. It covers both establishments and examines a range of issues common to each establishment and also issues specific to each one. Given that this is the first visit to Castle Huntly since the formal inspection of November 2001, an in depth follow up of the Points of Note and Recommendations is also provided.

1.2 The main focus of this inspection was to examine the treatment of prisoners and the conditions in which they were held. Within that context, an assessment was made of how the new integrated estate was operating (albeit at an early stage in its development), and how the establishments were helping prisoners to properly prepare for release.

1.3 The report is divided into a number of sections. This section provides an introduction. The second examines the context of this particular inspection and locates it within a model of preparing prisoners for release. The third reports on a number of issues relating to the conditions and treatment of prisoners found during the visit. The fourth section provides an overview of the main issues within the Inspectorate's criteria of safety, decency and contribution to reducing crime (again in the context of preparation for release). Section five provides a detailed examination of progress on the Points of Note raised in the 2001 formal inspection of Castle Huntly.

1.4 As far as possible, the report addresses the issue of the 'Open Estate', which reflects the efforts being made to create a joint culture. However, at time of inspection, the Open Estate consisted of two distinct sites with their own cultures, staffing and administration. Reference is therefore made to the relevant establishment when an issue requires.

1.5 The inspection was carried out on 10-12 December 2002 by the following team:

Andrew R C McLellan


Rod MacCowan


David McAllister


Michael Crossan


Dr Mike Ryan

Medical Adviser

John Oates

Education Adviser

Jane Thomson

Addictions Adviser


HM Chief Inspector of Prisons
28 January 2003


2.1 This is an important and challenging time for Castle Huntly and Noranside. The decision to integrate the two establishments 1 provides the opportunity to reassess the purpose of open prisons and build on good practice developed over the years. To achieve this, a clear commitment has to be made by the Scottish Prison Service to the two establishments, based, in our opinion, on the premise that open prisons must be dedicated to preparing prisoners for release. If that commitment is made and pursued relentlessly, then the open estate could become an invaluable part of the 'correctional agenda' which is central to the policy of the SPS. But if that commitment is not made clearly, or if it is made but not followed through, then the function of these two establishments could we fear become little more than overflow accommodation to help deal with overcrowding in other prisons. The two prisons are not designed for that purpose, and geographically they are not well located for it. The relative lack of physical security and distance from families in the main population centres in the Central Belt make their use as 'other prisons' unsatisfactory.

2.2 For a number of other reasons this is a particularly good time for a clear statement of purpose. While the process of integrating the two establishments is only beginning, the important decision to appoint a single Governor to manage both establishments has been taken. 2 He will be expected to implement the necessary changes and economies of scale which integration brings with it; but, and perhaps more importantly, he will no doubt wish to bring his own sense of purpose and direction to the Open Estate. During the inspection there were many positive comments from members of staff that this was already happening. There has also been much made of the level of drug misuse, and the impact which changes in SPS drug policy has had, at Castle Huntly and Noranside. At the very least, the decision to integrate the two establishments provides an opportunity to reassess this situation. It has also become more common for short term prisoners to serve part of their sentence in the Open Estate and this must be accompanied by a clear strategy for managing the preparation for release of two different groups of prisoners with very different needs.

2.3 Which brings us back to the issue of preparation for release. This is of considerable importance for a number of reasons, including: the prevention of re-offending; the completion of the correctional agenda and throughcare process; and the provision of good opportunities better to equip prisoners to make useful contributions to society once liberated.

2.4 The principal question posed by the Inspectorate was "…how does an open prison prepare a prisoner for release?" That was our starting point and it became clear during the inspection that it also figured highly in the minds of others, including prisoners, staff, Visiting Committees, those who provide work placements, and agencies working with the prisons.



3.1 At the time of inspection the total population of the Open Estate was 261 (90% occupancy). This was divided into 140 at Castle Huntly (90% occupancy) and 121 at Noranside (90% occupancy). The total capacity of 291 was available.

3.2 A breakdown of the sentences being served at each location is shown below. Figures show that of the overall population, 167 (64%) were Long Term Prisoners (LTPs) and 94 were Short Termers (STPs) (36%).

Castle Huntly




23 (16.4%)

24 (19.8%)

47 (18%)

10 years and over

12 (8.6%)

6 (5%)

18 (6.9%)

4 years and less than 10 years

48 (34.2%)

54 (44.6%)

102 (39%)

2 years and less than 4 years

50 (35.7%)

33 (27.3%)

83 (31.8%)

1 year and less than 2 years

6 (4.4%)

3 (2.5%)

9 (3.5%)

Less than 1 year

1 (0.7%)

1 (0.8%)

2 (0.8%)


3.3 Accommodation at both sites was generally decent and clean, although some of the dormitories at Castle Huntly appeared cluttered, grubby and covered with graffiti.

3.4 A striking comment made by one LTP was that each step forward in his sentence was a step backwards in terms of accommodation - from a single cell, to a shared cell at Friarton to a five person dormitory at Castle Huntly. While LTPs have priority for single cell accommodation in SPS, it seems strange that at the crucial stage of final preparation for release, including parole issues, LTPs can find themselves sharing a dormitory with short termers. Dormitories offer no privacy, mix very different personalities, may mix drug takers with non drug takers, may feel unsafe, and may prevent an individual studying or carrying out tasks around Parole or family related issues. While this is a poor environment for anyone, for an LTP preparing for release it is unsatisfactory. Despite that, dormitories were not wholly unpopular with prisoners. Some indicated that there was a degree of choice in who shared a dormitory and felt that a dormitory could be a supportive social environment because of this ability to choose. However, a clearly explained rationale for mixing long and short term prisoners on each site and in shared rooms in some areas is required.

3.5 Both sites have Independent Living Units, accommodating two prisoners at Castle Huntly and seven at Noranside. The Units are markedly different, Noranside's being a shared, but separate house, Castle Huntly's being a converted Dormitory in a Wing subject to the same restrictions as other dormitories during night and weekend lock-up periods. However, both provide a small number of prisoners the opportunity to take responsibility for a number of areas of their lives, in terms of practical preparation for release. Unfortunately, it would appear that neither site has published an easily understood criteria for access to the Independent Living Units, consequently prisoners perceive a lack of transparency in how places are allocated. That should be addressed.

Selection for Open Prisons

3.6 SPS has published criteria for admission to open prisons, but despite this, both staff and prisoners raised issues of either incomplete or misleading information being given by sending prisons. This often resulted in prisoners coming to the Open Estate with unrealistic or false expectations about what to expect - particularly from the regime. Videos which had been produced some years ago were now way out of date and, it appeared, rarely used in any case. Leaflets explaining the open prisons were also available at sending establishments but were not always current. While the introduction of the new Prisoner Supervision System (PSS) has made identification of suitable prisoners easier, it may also have had the undesired effect of reducing the perceived need to give prisoners information prior to transfer.

3.7 There is clearly a need for effective liaison between the open prisons and the sending establishments to ensure that prisoners are aware of the purpose of Castle Huntly and Noranside and what a move will mean for them. The extension of the case conference process, particularly for LTPs would seem to be one means of doing this. The new video conferencing facility (where it exists) might also help.


3.8 Castle Huntly has in place a written induction programme and a three day programme which includes a locally developed Personal Needs Self Assessment Form. This Form is used as the basis of an action plan developed between the individual and his Personal Officer, and ensures that Short Term Prisoners have a Needs Assessment done and that Long Termers are reviewed whether or not a formal Risk Needs Assessment has been done or updated. The Personal Needs Assessment Form appears to us to be a useful approach and the only suggestion we would make is that it might include a specific section on ethnicity and ethnic requirements. After four weeks all individuals should be seen at a case conference to confirm their action plan.

3.9 A sample of prisoner files showed that paperwork was completed to a high standard of accuracy. Because of this it was disappointing to note that induction itself does not always take place, or is sometimes not completed, partly due to staff shortages, partly due to the interest of staff.

3.10 Noranside also has a written programme and an induction programme lasting 3.5 days. Following this, individuals are introduced to a work party. An identified officer was assigned to Induction for four weeks. Each Friday was available for Risk Needs Assessment, but unfortunately, it appeared that this system had changed during the week of the inspection and appeared to be in some disarray. The change, related to a revised attendance system, also removed the designated officer. As with Castle Huntly, it appears that staff shortages have had an impact on the regularity of induction running.

3.11 Induction to a prison is vital to a new prisoner's understanding of what is available, how to access it and what is expected of him. In preparing for release, a prisoner is at a particularly vulnerable stage of his sentence. There can be little excuse for not ensuring that induction occurs for every admission in each prison.

Sentence Management

3.12 The formal Risk Needs Assessment for LTPs at Castle Huntly appeared to be carried out effectively, with only five Assessments outstanding at the time of the inspection. Paperwork is completed to a high standard, and an individual officer has responsibility for maintaining this and does so through a well maintained database.

3.13 Examination of a sample of Action Plans showed that these were being completed, although in practice there was relatively little to offer prisoners as a result. Castle Huntly offered no Accredited Programmes and only two Approved Programmes (Sensible Drinking and Healthy Choices), with a target of 30 deliveries during 2002/3. To date 11 have been delivered. At time of inspection Castle Huntly had the third highest MDT failure rate in SPS 3, and it was therefore a surprise to see so little available to address such a serious issue. This is not good preparation for release.

3.14 Equally surprising was the statistic that in eight months only 15 Castle Huntly prisoners had been on a pre release course. This illustrates clearly a recurring concern in this report. Given the number of Long Term Prisoners being prepared for release, the fact that only 15 prisoners had attended such a course seems to us to be unacceptable.

3.15 Prisoners were referred on to appropriate agencies both within the prison and externally, although this was on an individual basis and ideally should complement pre-release procedures rather than be the pre-release procedures.

3.16 If the situation at Castle Huntly was incomplete, Sentence Management at Noranside was chaotic. A sample of Prisoner Records revealed elements missing or half finished. Action Plans were incomplete, in one case three months after the Assessment had taken place. The database was well maintained but showed that, at the time of the inspection, 38 Risk Needs Assessments were overdue. This is from an LTP population of 84, and against a Business Plan target of 100% completions on time. Regular staff shortages, staff redeployment, lack of trained staff and the transfer of trained staff appeared to have contributed to this. This is an area of work which requires immediate Management action.

3.17 Noranside also offered no Approved or Accredited Programmes, although the 'Sensible Drinking' course was due to start at the end of January. As with Castle Huntly, it had a target of 20 Approved Activities, and the absence of programmes at either site is a gap in the preparation of prisoners for release.

3.18 A worrying, and consistent complaint at both prisons, was the lack of engagement by a significant number of staff. Complaints ranged from rudeness, indifference, and unwillingness to make minimal effort to answer or resolve problems, to discriminatory use of threats of loss of home leave and return to closed conditions. LTPs at both sites made very unfavourable comparisons between relationships between staff and prisoners at the open prisons and at closed prisons. Given that these are prisoners of low supervision, this surprised us.

3.19 The regime for prisoners also gave the impression of being very dull. Little structured leisure activity seemed to be in place. The lack of active staff engagement here seems to be a missed opportunity. During the inspection we were struck by the amount of time many residential staff spent behind the desk or in offices, and the new Prisoners' Forum is therefore to be welcomed.

Links with Family and Friends

3.20 Visiting arrangements were good at both prisons and we were particularly impressed by the facility at Castle Huntly. Prisoners were satisfied with the number and quality of visits. Home Leaves in particular were popular and often the only reason prisoners gave for wanting to be in open conditions. However, issues exist around the preparation and support prisoners are offered before and after Home Leaves. Additionally, with a strict allowance of three days for a Home Leave, prisoners from more geographically remote areas may spend day one and day three travelling, thus considerably reducing the quality of the Leave. Attempts have been made to address this at a local level but the problem nevertheless remains.

3.21 There were sufficient telephones in both establishments, although these were available within the locked Wings at Noranside during patrol and lock-up periods but not at Castle Huntly. These periods are often the most convenient ones for contacting family, and this lack of parity should be addressed.

3.22 Prisoners on placement can use public telephones, and prisoners on home leave can use private ones. If increasing family contact is part of preparation for release, it could be argued that greater availability of telephones, including mobiles, is part of that.


3.23 In general the accommodation in the Education Centre at Castle Huntly was adequate. There was some evidence that the locating of the Induction Centre in the Education Centre was having a positive effect by bringing prisoners into an educational environment. Problems remained, however, about the inadequacy of the existing office. A proper 'base' facility would bring benefits to the effective management of the Education Centre.

3.24 It was disappointing that the library was not located in the Education Centre as a Learning Resource Centre. The present library arrangements in respect of support for learning were totally inadequate. The decision to establish the prison library in a portakabin in the vicinity of the Education Centre was taken in its early days. Evidence however, was not very encouraging. At the time of the inspection, the library was staffed by an untrained prisoner, who was about to be released. There was no evidence of any system or organisation. In fact on the day of the inspection, there were almost as many books on the floor as there were on the shelves.

3.25 Accommodation at Noranside was in a self-contained unit close to other prison facilities. The rooms were bright and attractive and were certainly adequate for needs. They comprised an Office/Base and three classrooms, two of which were used mainly for Computing. The other was a general purposes room whose usage included Art. Resources were adequate. One computer room had recently been equipped by the prison with six new systems while the other room had six older but perfectly adequate systems, with software systems such as Microsoft Windows and Microsoft Office in use. Further support materials for courses were either provided by Lauder College or were produced by the lecturers.

3.26 As observed in this and in the last formal inspection, the curriculum provided in the Education Centre at Castle Huntly was adequately balanced, with the emphasis being on core elements such as Communications, Numeracy and Computing. A successful link had been established with Dundee College, with 17 full-time students following courses at the College. These were mainly vocational in nature and included Graphic Design, Travel and Tourism, Digital Photography and e-Business. These courses, like most of the courses at the Education Centre, lead to national certification under the Scottish Qualifications Authority. It is important that this policy is maintained as it provides prisoners with tangible results of their work in Education. Increasingly, these certificates are featuring in Prisoner Learning Records as prisoners move between establishments. They are also part of a national system in which prisoners can participate on release.

3.27 The recent increase in Prisoner Learning Hours might be used to enhance the curriculum in areas of creative activities such as Art and Music. Consideration should also be given to including courses such as 'Steps to Excellence' which would enable the Education Centre to make a positive contribution to programmes of healthy living.

3.28 The curriculum at Noranside was also well balanced and appeared to meet the needs of the prisoners. It included Core Skills such as Communications, Numeracy and Information Technology. Social Skills included First Aid, Self-Employment and Working with Others. There were no evening classes but seven prisoners attended Angus College on a full-time basis. They were following vocational courses such as Horticulture, Computing, Hairdressing and Accounting. These courses along with most courses provide by the Education Centre, lead to national certification.

3.29 In conclusion, the provision of education at Castle Huntly continues to be of good quality helped by a strong commitment from the provider, Lauder College, and from the management of the Education Centre. Education at Noranside was also of good quality and well managed. It was well supported by prison management and again by Lauder College. Education can make a valuable contribution to the preparation of prisoners for release, and three initiatives in particular can help to improve this: National Certification, placements in the community and College courses. We were pleased to see these operating effectively.

Work Opportunities and Placements

3.30 We were encouraged to note that the worksheds at Castle Huntly had been reinstated following our last formal inspection. The prison now provides the opportunity to gain certification in car valeting and in catering. The metal fabrication workshop, despite providing a great deal of job satisfaction and producing high quality work, was not certificated and appeared to be of less benefit in improving employment prospects. Projects for outside work have a value in terms of the charitable work and contribution to society but perhaps could be developed as part of a structured certificated programme in a specific skill. The possibility of developing the garden party in the context of employability was being explored, and that is to be welcomed.

3.31 Similarly, the work parties at Noranside had limited scope for employment prospects on liberation. With the exception of the VT painters and the certificated course of the forestry saw-shed the majority of work was general labour. The majority of internal employment opportunities were taken up by short term prisoners who were restricted in their access to external work placements by limits on numbers and priority being given to long termers.

3.32 The majority of the prisoners to whom we spoke in both Castle Huntly and Noranside claimed that the quality of work and level of wages were better in the establishments from which they came.

3.33 We visited a small selection of projects and placements and were very impressed by what we saw. Feedback from all parties concerned was positive and prisoners in particular appeared to benefit through improving or learning new skills, gaining experience, and taking greater responsibility. Prison staff responsible for organising and co-ordinating the outplacements and projects were dedicated, enthusiastic and keen to ensure that these opportunities continued. There were however conflicting views on the availability of placements and the desire of prisoners to take part. Prison staff said that they had difficulty in persuading prisoners to apply for placements, but long term prisoners to whom we spoke denied this saying that they simply could not get on a waiting list and there was a curious tendency to lose forms.

3.34 The range and quality of placements and project work available to Long Term Prisoners in the open estate was impressive. Both prisons displayed dedication and skill in these areas. This is perhaps the strongest contribution made by the prisons to the preparation for release of those who have a place on the scheme.

3.35 With the exception of Home Leaves, many opportunities such as external work placements, projects and social work interventions were targeted very much at long term prisoner population. While access for this group is wholly appropriate there is a requirement to establish clarity around needs of the short term population.

Health Care

3.36 Overall, the arrangements for health care in Castle Huntly and Noranside were satisfactory. This was helped by the fact that a number of areas highlighted in the November 2001 inspection of Castle Huntly had been addressed, including an upgrade of the surgery and installation of an alarm. In addition, information on health care in Castle Huntly had improved, and although physiotherapy sessions had not been provided, the service for prisoners requiring treatment appeared to have improved. In addition the dental surgery had an alarm and personal security training had been given to the dental nurse. New dental equipment was planned.

3.37 The pressure on health care at both sites did however appear to be increasing due to the range of chronic conditions being managed. The demands on health care from prisoners with drug problems at Castle Huntly also appeared to be much greater than at Noranside. It could be that the "drop in clinic" in Noranside encourages prisoners to raise concerns about their drug taking and associated health problems with the nurse.

3.38 The arrangements for holding the emergency drugs were unsatisfactory. The nurse at Noranside, who had occasion to use the emergency bag a fortnight before our visit, found that it was difficult to locate the appropriate drugs and some of the medication he required was not available. The system is inherently dangerous, and should be looked at as a matter of urgency.

Addictions Issues

3.39 The random positive test results in both establishments had risen markedly from 17% (2000-2001) to 36% (November 2002) in Castle Huntly, and 7% (2000-2001) to approximately 17% (November 2002) in Noranside. 4

3.40 In May 2002, a new policy on the management of prisoners in open prisons who provide a positive drug test was introduced. This stated that, '…a prisoner's individual circumstances are taken into account when considering the appropriate sanction for a positive drug test'. The policy further states that prisoners should only be returned to more secure conditions following a positive drug test where it is clear that the prisoner is a serious threat to security or good order of the prison, or presents an unacceptable risk to public safety, or has repeatedly abused the freedom offered by a 'top end' or open prison, or requires drug counselling/ support, which is not available in their current location.

3.41 However, both prisoners and staff appeared confused about this. Prisoners felt it was unfair that some individuals were returned to closed conditions on the basis of one failed test, whilst others remained in open conditions even after several positive results. Staff, and in particular Mandatory Drug Testing staff, reported a large rise in the number of positive tests, but very little action taken or opportunities provided to address problems for the individual concerned as a result.

3.42 It was extremely disturbing that there was such a high incidence of illicit drug usage within the establishments, and that interventions were not in place to meet identified needs (particularly in Noranside). This whole issue of drugs should be addressed as a priority. At the time of writing, a dual site working group had been set up with the aim of providing a comprehensive addictions management response. Solutions might include the provision of drug free areas; the provision of seven days a week nursing cover to allow prescribed detoxification to be carried out; and the introduction of an addictions nurse to provide support and information on detoxification (and methadone in Castle Huntly). Another area, which could be tackled, is that of tolerance reduction both pre-Home Leave periods and pre-liberation.

3.43 A variety of interventions should also be made available to help individuals address their addiction problems. These might include a facility for individual counselling; group work; and medical detoxification. Finally, the problems associated with relapse should be addressed. Many drug users have poor coping strategies and are unable to deal effectively with daily pressures or problems. Transfer to an open establishment can expose an individual to situations not experienced for some time, and during periods of Home Leave, many individuals will be returning to an environment which they associate with drug use. Many will be facing imminent liberation dates following lengthy periods in custody and it is not uncommon for individuals to experience relapse on several occasions before they ultimately become and remain drug free. Every relapse therefore, should be viewed as a learning experience, the goal being relapse management and avoidance. However, if an individual is relapsing with regularity, this could suggest that his situation at present is too difficult and a return to a less 'pressured' environment with structured relapse work could be worth considering.

Social Work

3.44 The social work unit at Castle Huntly continued to have a staffing complement of two social workers and one part time administrative officer. Statutory work was taking up more and more time, resulting mainly from the number of tribunals for life sentenced prisoners following the application of the Convention Rights (Compliance) (Scotland) Act 2001. This had accelerated the need to prepare a number of life sentence prisoners for release within a very short period of time (as they have completed the tariff fixed by the Court), which then required greater liaison with outside agencies and more prisoner and family reports to be compiled.

3.45 As a result of this increase in workload, the Unit was unable to see all STPs within two weeks of induction (which happened previously). The main channel for dealing with short termers was through the open surgery held between 1100 and 1200 hours each day. This surgery had been identified as an element of best practice in the previous formal inspection; as was the arrangement which allows prisoners to make appointments directly with the unit (the telephone had formerly been disconnected). Following the inspection we were pleased to learn that the Unit had introduced an additional session on Wednesday evenings (17.30-19.00). This is by appointment only and is aimed at those who are unable to attend during the day due to placements or other work or education commitments. The brief visit made by the inspection team suggested that the social work unit continued to operate effectively, despite the increasing pressures being put upon it.

3.46 The complement at Noranside was two full time social workers and one part time social worker. One full time post had been vacant for almost a year although it was expected that this would be filled in January 2003. However, this had placed a considerable burden on the service particularly since Noranside also holds those sex offenders (13) considered suitable for open conditions. As in Castle Huntly, most of the unit's work was of a statutory nature, focused on LTPs, and had recently been loaded towards life sentence prisoners. While it was not possible fully to engage with short term prisoners in the sentence management process, it was recognised that there was a need to devise appropriate programmes such as drug relapse prevention for this particular group. Despite the pressures on the unit we consider it to be working effectively.

Race Relations

3.47 Noranside had in post a nominated Race Relations Officer (RRO) and Deputy. An ethnic minority monitoring register had been in operation since 1996, and examination of this indicated that from that time until time of inspection 18 prisoners had been recorded as being from an ethnic minority group (the last being January 2002). An ethnic minority liaison group was scheduled to meet on a quarterly basis although that had slipped during the past year. Minutes showed that when the Group did meet, it was attended by a wide range of interests, including the Tayside Race Relations Council.

3.48 An ethnic minority interview form was completed for all relevant prisoners within 24 hours of admission to the prison. This recorded a wide range of needs and requirements and as far as we could ascertain these were met during the prisoner's stay (e.g. cultural, dietary, medical needs). All efforts would be made to obtain an interpreter if required although it appeared that this had never been needed in practice.

3.49 Two complaints had been lodged since 1996, and we looked at documentation relating to both of these. We were satisfied that both had been dealt with appropriately.

3.50 While a Race Relations Officer was in post in Castle Huntly, he was unable to provide any statistics regarding numbers of prisoners from ethnic minority groups who had been admitted or dealt with. Arrangements for religious worship and observance appeared to be appropriate, and particular mention was made of the links with the mosque in Dundee. All meat purchased for use at Castle Huntly is halal in order to meet the dietary needs of any prisoner.

3.51 Appropriate complaints forms were freely available in the accommodation areas and the RRO indicated there had been no complaints lodged.



4.1 Both Castle Huntly and Noranside looked and felt safe environments for prisoners to live and staff to work in, and that is as it should be in a low security and supervision environment. There had however been one serious prisoner on prisoner assault at Noranside in the last year (none at Castle Huntly), but no serious prisoner on staff assaults at either establishment.

4.2 There had been a significant rise in the number of disciplinary reports since May 2002 (90% up on the equivalent period last year) and we were told that this was a direct result of abandoning the "one strike and out" policy for prisoners who provide a positive drug test. Figures confirmed that of that increase of 90% in Castle Huntly, 62% of incidents were drug related. It was disappointing to find that drug misuse appeared to be on the rise within both establishments, despite the warnings in the last formal inspection of Castle Huntly barely a year ago. Some staff appeared to be worried about their physical safety as a result of this increase.


4.3 Noranside was clean and tidy; parts of Castle Huntly were dirty and covered with graffiti. The upgrading of Wallace Wing since the last inspection was noticeable. The quality and quantity of food was excellent across both establishments and a timetable had been introduced to the gymnasium at Castle Huntly to help ensure equity of access for all prisoners. Arrangements for visits were good and the visits facility at Castle Huntly was particularly impressive.

4.4 The safety of the prisons and the decency of the accommodation and of the environment raised no serious questions during the inspection. But the central question remains: '…how are Castle Huntly and Noranside preparing prisoners for release?'

Preparation for Release

4.5 Both prisoners and staff agree that the two most important parts of this preparation are Home Leaves and work placements. These can be very powerful ways of helping to de-institutionalise long term prisoners. But even with these two central parts of the contribution that the Open Estate makes to preparation for release there can be problems. Ironically, we heard prisoners speak of the lack of preparation for Home Leaves which they received; and there are clearly questions about access to work placements. More seriously, these two aspects of preparation, Home Leaves and work placements, are not in themselves necessarily limited to an open prison. Each of them could be carried on from closed conditions - as work placements currently are. Indeed, it could be argued that prisoners might be better off if these two parts of preparation for release were carried out from closed conditions, since they would, in most cases, be nearer to relevant support agencies, employment prospects and to family.

4.6 In her Annual Report for 2002, Anne Owers, Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Prisons for England and Wales, wrote:

"Open prisons provide a safe and generally respectful environment for prisoners with opportunities to re-establish contact with families and the community. However, most had been stagnating: allowed to drift, without any clear sense of their purpose or usefulness to the prisons system in general. Most, despite their supposed focus and aim, had no clear resettlement strategy, and too little effective personal officer work of proactive engagement with prisoners during this difficult half-way stage of returning to family and community."

4.7 The Open Prison Estate in Scotland faces the same issues. Prisoners, staff and others to whom we spoke seemed unsure of its overall role and purpose in the Prison System, and indeed the Governor has noted that:

"We have been inhibited at both sites by … the lack of commonly understood purpose for open prisons".

4.8 That is why this report began by stating that this was an important and challenging time for Castle Huntly and Noranside and that even before arriving for the inspection we were concerned to know how an open prison prepares a prisoner for release.

4.9 Apart from home leaves and work placements, it is difficult to identify any particular contribution being made at present to the preparation of long term prisoners for release from the Open Estate. The assumption may be that prisoners have completed all the preparation they need in terms of programmes before they come to the Open Estate; but that is unlikely. It is unlikely because of the time which has probably elapsed since many of them took part in a Programme. It is also unlikely given the pressures, anxieties and needs which the imminent prospect of release will often bring. There are opportunities in Castle Huntly and Noranside for discovering new and imaginative ways to give prisoners the resources they need to take their place in society once again. This is a time of opportunity for the Open Estate. But if it is to establish its role as key in the preparation of prisoners for release, then far more needs to be done with programmes, staff engagement, sentence management, one to one work and making the most of contact with outside organisations.

4.10 Nowhere is the question more clearly put than in terms of drug policy. It is now recognised that Castle Huntly and Noranside are not drug-free establishments. Relatively little is being done to help prisoners with problems of addiction to prepare for release. The open prisons clearly recognise that there is a serious issue around drug use, the figures for Mandatory Drug Testing clearly shows the extent of the issue. It is now necessary to provide the kind of addiction management resources which will make it possible for prisoners to look forward to release with some prospect of overcoming their addiction.


For SPS HQ/Operations Director

13.1 Funds should be found to upgrade Wallace Wing to the same standard as Bruce (paragraph 3.10).

All Wallace Wing ablutions have been upgraded within single room accommodation areas. New worktops, wardrobes and sinks have been purchased for single rooms. Installation is planned for January 2003.

13.2 More risk assessment drug testing should be carried out prior to home leaves (paragraph 4.46).

Risk Assessments for year end 2001-02 completed was 82. Risk Assessments to end October 02-03, completed is 162 - an increase of nearly 100% over the first 8 months of reporting period 02/03 against the total completion rate for 2001/02. Total tests of all descriptions - Random, Suspicion, Risk, Frequent for year 2001/02 - 285. Total tests completed to end November 2002 - 330.

13.3 MDT staff do not currently manage 7 days a week testing and this should be addressed (paragraph 4.47).

The situation has improved but still not 7 days.

13.4 MDT staff are not always able to act on requests for suspicion testing and this should be addressed (paragraph 4.47).

The situation has improved but still not fully addressed.

13.5 More emphasis should be placed on suspicion testing rather than random MDT (paragraph 4.47).

Due to the changes in attendance patterns facilitated by The Staffing Structure Review. MDT testing has increased in relation to the areas identified. See 13.2 above.

We were informed that, while improvements have been made, there still remains inadequate opportunities to provide MDT testing as described in 13.3 and 13.4. The main reason given was staff shortages.

Issues to be taken up with the Governor I/C on subsequent visits to the establishment

13.6 Recreational equipment in the wings should either be replaced or re-furbished (paragraph 3.10).

The Pool Tables within the Wings were refurbished in February 2002, and again in November 2002. Televisions are now replaced/repaired as required. The longer term need for recreational equipment will be an Agenda Item for the newly constituted Joint Open Estate Prisoners Forum (January 2003).

13.7 The lack of structured programmes and other interventions means that, at present, not all identified sentence planning needs are being met. This should be addressed (paragraph 4.9).

Remains outstanding.

13.8 No routine programmes designed to prepare prisoners for release were being delivered and introduction of such programmes should be given a high priority (paragraph 4.11).

Remains outstanding.

13.9 Consideration should be given to establishing a Learning Resource Centre in the Education Centre (paragraph 4.20).

Present provision remains inadequate. Reference material is obtained by the education manager when she visits Lauder College and the 'Portakabin' next to the gate is of doubtful value - managed by an untrained passman and many books lying on the floor.

13.10 Consideration should be given to some form of timetabling in the gym to ensure that all prisoners have fair and equitable access (paragraph 4.32).

Physical Training Instructors have now put in place a timetable to meet the needs of the prisoner population.

Work is underway across both Open Sites to address the competing demands for prisoner time, i.e. balance of health promotion and physical well being against other work, (e.g. education and recreational pursuits).

13.11 The location of the MDT Unit is not ideal and it should be shifted to an area where individuals can be viewed at all times (paragraph 4.47).

The MDT Unit is subject to Capital Investment, the project is currently with cost consultants and is scheduled for completion for year end 2002/2003.

13.12 Soundproofing in the surgery should be improved (paragraph 8.7).

The surgery has been fully upgraded including soundproofing.

13.13 Consideration should be given to the introduction of a physiotherapist (paragraph 8.9).

In the event that any ongoing physiotherapy is required this will be facilitated by HMP Perth.

13.14 Consideration should be given to installing an alarm in the surgery (paragraph 8.9).

An alarm has been installed and is linked to the Main Gate workstation area.

13.15 More information should be readily available on the activities of healthcare within the prison (paragraph 8.16).

Healthcare information is given during Induction interview. Healthcare is also the subject of Health Awareness Activity Sessions, run jointly by Catering, Physical Education and Surgery. Health Awareness Activity Days were run on the 5 th and 6 th February 25 th and 26 th June and 28 th and 29 th October.

13.16 An amalgamator with sealed capsules and some additional handpieces for the dentist should be obtained (paragraph 8.23).

New dental equipment is currently the subject of Procurement.

13.17 Personal security training should be offered to the dental nurse (paragraph 8.24).

Security Training has been given to both the Dentist and the Dental Nurse. Refresher training is also planned prior to year-end 2002/03.

13.18 Consideration should be given to the use of the Conference Centre as a work training centre for prisoners in conference management, catering and waiting (paragraph 10.9).

The Catering Manager is currently exploring this issue.

13.19 Consideration should be given to the amount of time which the Staff Training Officer can allocate to Castle Huntly (paragraph 10.10).

The restructure of the Open Estate Management Team resulted in a re-evaluation of the staff training position, and there is no longer a Staff Training Officer in post.


  1. Decision taken in October 2001.
  2. Governor took up appointment in May 2002.
  3. SPS Mandatory Drug Testing Statistics 2002-03.
  4. SPS figures.