Prison is 'on a knife edge'

The research, commissioned by the prison service, lists concerns over issues within the much-heralded 140m superprison facility, which replaced HMP Peterhead.
The research, commissioned by the prison service, lists concerns over issues within the much-heralded 140m superprison facility, which replaced HMP Peterhead.

A new report by researchers at Cambridge University has revealed the north-east’s new ‘superprison’ as having serious issues.

The research, commissioned by the prison service, lists concerns over issues within the Scottish Government’s much-heralded £140m ‘superprison’ facility, which replaced HMP Peterhead.

In this, the latest embarrassment for the Scottish Prison Service (SPS), researchers, who spoke to both staff and inmates were told the prison was on a “knife edge”. Staff claimed they were operating with staffing numbers below the safe limit, and every landing manned with at least one staff member missing.

The report detailed how one employee said: “Grampian is running on goodwill – the goodwill of staff and prisoners. But we’re run ragged and prisoners feel it. This needs to be recognised before it’s too late.”

Banffshire and Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson said: “The assessment by Cambridge University researchers has provided an extensive account of morale of both prisoners and staff.

“I expect to visit in the near future and will use that opportunity to discuss this report.”

One of the most worrying aspects of the report was its concern over the division between staff and management, stating that such a gulf could only be resolved by a “concerted and cooperative effort”.

“Grampian culture? I don’t think we have one yet. I think each department has their own culture and vision, and a lot of good teamwork amongst your immediate colleagues, but as a whole, it’s divided. We’re just not unified. Sometimes it’s like we’re working against each other when we should be working towards a common goal” said another staff member.

Many prisoners who were interviewed expressed feelings of resignation: “I’ve given up – it’s easier to just keep your head down and burn time”; “I don’t try to do anything anymore – it’s pointless” were just a few of the comments made.

Banff and Buchan MP David Duguid said: “There is obviously a strong feeling of duty and obligation among staff members at HMP Grampian.

“But it is a dangerous environment to keep people working long hours, without sleep, and with prisoners squabbling over drinking cups in.

“The SNP’s duty of care to prison officers, support staff, and even prisoners should mean this report is taken very seriously, indeed.”

A Scottish Prison Service spokesperson said: “This is a snapshot of HMP&YOI Grampian at an early stage in its development. The bringing together of two different staff groups, with the addition of staff entirely new to the prison system, is of course challenging. The diverse prisoner groups they are dealing with, is in itself, a significant shift in the skill set required.

“Whilst there remains room for improvement, SPS is confident that progress has continued to be made by the management team and staff at the

establishment.

“Staff are committed to encourage and support those in SPS care to fully utilise the help and supports which we make available to them.”