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Staffing ‘crisis’ stopping new jail becoming ‘outstanding’

The latest report says almost all areas of the prison are being negatively impacted.

Crisis: Report says jail could be outstanding.
Crisis: Report says jail could be outstanding.

A staffing “crisis” at Scotland’s newest jail is stopping it becoming an “outstanding” prison according to a new report.

The latest full inspection report on Peterhead says almost all areas of the prison are being negatively impacted by staffing shortages.

Wendy Sinclair-Gieben, the Chief Inspector of Prisons for Scotland, visited the jail with her team in February this year.

She says they found an establishment that had matured since opening in 2014.

It was “largely calm and purposeful with emerging signs of stability and progress”.

However there were mixed views on staff perceptions of safety. She says staff shortages clearly influenced their confidence.

The new prison and youth offenders institution opened in March 2014.

It followed the closure of Craiginches Prison in Aberdeen and the old and outdated Peterhead jail.

The facility is the first in Scotland to house men, women and young offenders in the same building.

But within a few months there was a riot.

Young offenders were moved to Polmont.

A hall has remained closed ever since with no sign of it opening again soon.

Acting Prison Governor Mike Hebden said it could re-open in the future but staffing numbers would have to be right and it would depend on the prison population at the time.

Asked about recruitment he said,”Staffing shortages make our jobs more difficult but the staff that are here do a fantastic job. However we are trying to address the issue. We go out to schools and to employment fairs for example. But it does prevent us performing to our capacity.”

The Chief Inspector says, “Predictable regime delivery, activity access, personal officer support for progression, and time out of cell are critical components to good order and discipline. These were at risk with the current staffing issues; the establishment stabillty should be considered as fragile”.

She’s praised many aspects of work at the jail and said the Family Centre was the best she’d seen anywhere in the world.

However its work was under threat from Council funding cutbacks.

She said the strongest area of performance related to the preparation of prisoners for their successful return to the community.

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