Prison inspection finds 'troubling' overcrowding in Scots jail

The inspection of the jail took place between January 31 and February 11 this year.

Prison inspection flags ‘troubling’ overcrowding issues at HMP Low Moss Google Maps
HMP Low Moss: Overcrowding issues at prison.

A recent inspection has flagged “troubling” overcrowding in a Scottish jail that has exceeded the number of prisoners that it was designed to hold a decade ago.

Other issues raised at HMP Low Moss include the amount of time isolating prisoners were allowed out their cell during the pandemic and transport services.

The prison, in East Dunbartonshire, reopened in a new building in 2012 after the previous premises was closed in 2007 before being demolished.

Originally designed to hold 784 prisoners it was raised to 884 to help with a sharp rise in Scotland’s prison population.

However the converted double cells, built to accommodate the extra 100 places, means the jail no longer fit inspectorate standards as the cells are deemed to small as it reduced individual living spaces.

Inspectors say the problem at became “particularly troubling” during the coronavirus pandemic in 2020, when there was restrictions on the amount of time a prisoner could spend outside their cell.

The assessment was carried out between January 31 to February 11 this year.

In a report published on Tuesday, the watchdog said the “enduring crisis” surrounding overcrowding in the system is “echoed” by the prison.

“Significant numbers” of prisoners were limited to the minimum requirement of one hour of open-air exercise during the pandemic, the inspector said, while infection control rules meant isolated prisoners only received one hour of fresh air every third day.

However, the watchdog added: “We were pleased to see that the governor addressed and resolved this human rights issue during the inspection.”

It also found that permanent additional staff resources were not allocated to the prison following the introduction of the extra spaces, and identified a “clear need for a full capacity modelling exercise”.

Such an exercise would need to address challenges in releasing staff in order to attend training, the report said.

The inspector said it received “conflicting perceptions” of staff in the SPS during its time at HMP Low Moss.

The watchdog said it observed and was told of examples of “good compassionate care and support for prisoners”, and praised the support offered to vulnerable prisoners in Kelvin Two Bravo – but it also reported relationships between prisoners and staff “were not always so positive”.

However, it commended the prison’s processes around the management of staff absences and staff discipline, which it said was “supported and underpinned by good relationships between the governor and local trade unions”.

In terms of healthcare quality at the facility, it said that in order to ensure patient care is not compromised, a “good management culture of mutual understanding and co-operation” between the NHS and SPS should be embedded to “every level below the management”.

The performance of the prisoners’ transport service was “deeply troubling”, the watchdog said, citing “significant evidence of late arrivals and missed hospital appointments” – though it acknowledged that improvements had been noted since the inspection was carried out.