Four prisoners have been found dead in Scottish jails in the space of five days.
Three of the men died at Scotland’s largest prison, Barlinnie in Glasgow, while the fourth man was found dead at HMP Low Moss in East Dunbartonshire.
The deaths come as MSPs heard evidence on a report that warned the country’s jails are a safety risk because they are “running well over operating capacity”.
The Scottish Prison Service (SPS) confirmed that Paul Hamilton, 43, died at Barlinnie on October 24.
Neil Hand, 30, then died at Low Moss on October 27. Another man died at Barlinnie, also on October 27, however his details are yet to be released.
Michael Charlton, 34, then died at Barlinnie on October 28.
Hamilton had been convicted of a crime in July last year, while Charlton and Hand died while on remand.
The police have been notified and the deaths have been reported to the Procurator Fiscal.
Fatal Accident Inquiries will be held in due course.
On Thursday, Holyrood’s Public Audit Committee heard evidence on the Audit Scotland report that showed there had been “significant” increases in assaults by prisoners against staff, while stress-related sickness among workers had risen by nearly a third in 2018/19.
When the report was published in October, Auditor General Caroline Gardner said: “Scotland’s prisons are running well over operating capacity.
“The SPS faces a combination of severe pressures on many fronts; this poses a threat to operational safety, effectiveness and financial sustainability.”
The report stated the service’s revenue budget had reduced from £394.7m in 2014/15 to £345.2m in 2018/19 – a 12.5% cut in real terms amid rising costs.
Prisoner numbers increased to 8212 in 2018/19 – nearly a 9% rise – with Scotland home to one of the highest imprisonment rates in Europe.
The Scottish Government has blamed capacity issues on a greater focus on serious organised crime and sexual offending, including historical and online cases, while extending the presumption against prison sentences, with Holyrood’s backing.