Prison inspectors have called for a Victorian-style jail to be replaced after raising concerns about the fabric of the building, which is more than 100 years old.
HM Inspectorate of Prisons for Scotland (HMIPS) visited HMP Greenock, Inverclyde, in March 2023 and while they found “excellent staff and prisoner relationships”, calls have been made for a new prison estate to be built in a similar locality.
Last year, Scotland’s chief inspector of prisons, Wendy Sinclair-Gieben told MSPs that HMIPS may consider closing the 113-year-old facility if there are no improvements in the health and safety of the estate.
Staff at the prison were praised for their “heartwarming” examples of going the extra mile for prisoners in a caring and compassionate manner.
One prisoner said support provided by a particular member of staff had saved their life.
Inspectors noted there had been a “proactive” approach to health and safety with significant attempts to address historic issues of dampness in cells which had taken about 45 out of commission.
The number of cells out of use had “reduced considerably”, the report stated, but it was “too soon” to assess the long term impact of improvement works.
The report noted no robust solutions had been found for issues including the leak-prone roof, kitchen ventilation and flooring.
Investment into securing these improvements was promised during the last visit, inspectors said.
HMP Greenock was also praised for its work with the NHS Greater Glasgow & Clyde health board, which delivers healthcare at the prison.
But inspectors found there was an insufficient range and number of work opportunities available at the prison and that the learning centre was underutilised.
The report concluded: “We are pleased that there were many positive findings to record from our inspection of HMP Greenock.
“Undoubtedly, their key asset is the compassionate caring staff, and the excellent relationships they have developed with prisoners.
“However, despite the welcome investment that has been made by the SPS over the years, for example, on a more modern visits room, HMP Greenock remains a Victorian prison ill-suited to the demands of a modern prison system.
“There is still a compelling case for securing a modern replacement prison, preferably in the same locality.
“That might support a seamless transition of staff, and the excellent prison culture they have developed, into a prison designed for the 21st century and geared up to provide appropriate opportunities more easily for work and rehabilitative activity.”
HMP Greenock received its first prisoners in August 1910, during the reign of King George V – Queen Victoria’s grandson.
A Scottish Prison Service spokesperson said: “This report highlights many areas of good practice, including outstanding examples of care and compassion shown by staff, and their excellent relationships with those in our care, as well as praise for our NHS and community partners.
“While we recognise there is more to do on progression, infrastructure, and work opportunities for those in custody, it is pleasing to see recognition for work made to address areas of dampness, and our plans for significant investment in improvements over the next three years.”