Prisoner progression failing inmates and staff, chief inspector warns

HMIPS chief inspector Wendy Sinclair-Gieben said an 'urgent re-evaluation and further investment' is essential.

Prisoner progression failing inmates and staff, chief inspector warns STV News

Progression processes for inmates in Scotland are failing to meet their needs and those of staff, the chief inspector of prisons has warned.

In a report by His Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons for Scotland, Wendy Sinclair-Gieben said an “urgent re-evaluation and further investment” is essential.

The review placed a host of recommendations with the Scottish Prison Service (SPS), including better resourcing programmes to prevent delays in inmate progression.

Progression is used as a way to test the responsibility and safety of inmates by allowing them to advance to lower levels of security to ultimately achieve parole.

After more than 500 prison staff and 600 prisoners gave their views to the report, it concluded: “The progression system is simply not working.

“The current system is not achieving its stated aims, with, for example, unacceptable delays for many prisoners in accessing programmes that they have been assessed as needing to manage risk effectively and which are therefore currently essential to their prospects at a parole board hearing.”

It said prisoners are often being told by the parole board that they have to go on a programme to be considered at their next hearing, but they are then “denied the opportunity to do so timeously”.

Ms Sinclair-Gieben said: “The whole system is currently not meeting the needs of the Scottish Prison Service and is therefore in urgent need of re-evaluation and investment.”

The report added that inmates feel “frustrated” at the lengthy delays in progressing to the top end or open estate stages, and the lack of clear information on how to progress.

It added: “Worryingly, some personal officers were also not clear or sometimes actually wrong in their knowledge.”

It comes as the early release of around 500 inmates is set to go ahead from the end of the month following extreme capacity levels which see staff responsible for around 8,000 inmates per day across 17 establishments.

The report also found a common complaint among staff is a lack of training, with the “overwhelming majority” referring to themselves as “self-taught” on progression.

A Scottish Prison Service spokesperson said: “We welcome this HMIPS report which will help inform our ongoing review of risk management and progression.

“We are confident that this transformational change in the way in which we support the rehabilitative journey of those in our care, improve their life chances, reduce the risk of reoffending, and help build safer communities will address the recommendations made in the report.

“The progression and rehabilitation of those in our care is a responsibility we share with our partners across the justice sector, and we are determined to work collaboratively to deliver for people leaving custody and the communities they will return to.”

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