A prison breached international standards for housing prisoners in double occupancy rooms, a report has found.
Inspectors said some cells being used for double occupancy at HMP Inverness were “too small” and breached international standards on minimum space dimensions.
The inspection report stated the current facility was “ill-suited” to the requirements of a modern prison system due to the lack of accessible cells.
However, construction on a new prison estate called HMP Highland is under way, but a date is yet to be confirmed by the Scottish Prisons Service (SPS).
Inspectors say they hoped development of the new prison was “not inhibited by the budgetary pressures facing the SPS” as any slippage with the construction of the replacement prison would be “deeply troubling.”
Concerns were also raised about prisoners’ lack of privacy when showering, as the prison still uses old-fashioned saloon doors that do not close fully.
Prison inspectors also said the visits room, where prisoners can see family, were “cold and uninviting” and efforts should be made to improve this, particularly for children.
A lack of evening visits due to staffing levels also concerned prison inspectors who said efforts to return to pre-pandemic levels of staffing and service were not moving at a quick enough pace.
Staff shortages have also had an impact on the running of the prison with the social work team “struggling” as a result.
The lack of privacy prisoners had when being searched in the reception area must also be addressed, the report said.
HMP Inverness was recognised for the positive relationships between staff and prisoners with the inspection report stating they were “always friendly, respectful and supportive” with a strong management and staff group, and positive relationships between them and their partner agencies.
Development of a new recovery wing with a dedicated SMART recovery programme “stood out” as good practice, inspectors said.
Action was also taken to refurbish holding cells and a protocol had been established which requires anyone held longer than 72 hours to be transferred to a more appropriate separation and reintegration unit setting.
Inspectors also urged the SPS to recruit more staff ahead of the planned opening of the new HMP Highland and provide opportunities for staff at HMP Inverness to gain experience of working in a modern prison.
HM Inspectorate of Prisons for Scotland inspected HMP Inverness between August 15 and 26 last year.
A Scottish Prison Service spokesperson said: “We welcome the chief inspector’s report, which describes HMP Inverness as an ‘exceptional prison’ with 23 areas of good practice.
“It is pleasing to see acknowledgement for initiatives such as the ‘story time dads’, which allows individuals in our care to record a copy of a book onto a disc for their children and families.
“We acknowledge the chief inspector’s comments on infrastructure and privacy and have already taken action to refurbish the holding cells within the reception area, put ceilings on more Link Centre rooms, and have addressed concerns around the saloon doors.
“We will respond to all the recommendations in the report in due course.
“The replacement of HMP Inverness remains a key priority for the Scottish Government and SPS, with the creation of a new HMP Highland, which will better serve local communities, meet the needs of people in our care, and provide an improved environment for all those who work, live, and visit our establishments.”