Scots prisons crisis with over-occupied cells and riot threats amid lack of staff

The crisis in Scotland’s prison service is worsening with an increase in riot-style incidents, a lack of staff and too many inmates.

The Sunday Mail can disclose that Kilmarnock and Glenochil both have major overcrowding issues.

Relatives of prisoners also claim there are long delays with access to support for substance addiction while others have complained about poor quality food.

And a prison officers union has warned there is not enough staff to cope with the demand of inmates with mental health issues and called for investment.

At HMP Kilmarnock, staff have faced a dramatic rise in prisoner numbers and increased incidents requir-ing the use of riot shields since it was taken into public ownership.

The prison holds 628 inmates, 25 per cent above its design capacity of 501, with 35 arriving since the transition to Scottish Prison Service management, a six per cent rise in ten weeks.

Staff who previously worked for Serco, which ran the jail with few hitches until the end of a 25-year contract in March, are braced for more prisoners to arrive.

They warn that 18 additional recruits brought in by the SPS are not enough to cope with the rising numbers especially as the loss of body cam-eras used by Serco had left them more vulnerable.

One officer said: “In the past three or four years, I’ve seen two inciden-ts involving staff kitted out, break-ing up trouble with full kit – body armour and riot shields.

“On 29 April, there were two full-kit interventions with prisoners.

“I’ve been told there have been at least two more since that I did not witness, and there have also been two incidents involving a prisoner threatening to throw himself over a top landing railing."

Sources at HMP Glenochil, near Alloa, told the Sunday Mail prisoners are doub-ling up in single cells.

Others hit out at hundreds of food items being destroy-ed as inmates go hungry.

A source said: “The whole system is at breaking point. It is so cramped, people are resorting to drug use to deal with their mental health.”

Some cells, though single occupancy, are described as “small doubles” which means they take two prisoners.

Another officer added: “Food quality is so poor people are hungry. They are wasting money on food items, they binned 1200 eggs, 500 fresh doghnuts and tins of beans were all crushed, instead of being given to prisoners.”

Relatives of prisoners claim inmates are waiting up to two years for Generic Programme Assessment which helps prisoners living with substance misuse, addiction or trauma.

Phil Fairlie, Assistant General Secretary of the Prison Officers Association called for ‘urgent investment’ in support and rehab services for prisoners.

It comes as the Scottish Government revealed plans to release 550 inmates early from the end of June to ease pressure on the system.

The number of prisoners has increased by 400 since March 18 and earlier this month there were 8365 people behind bars - the highest number since 2012.

Justice Secretary Angela Constance, said a release scheme would be for those serving sentences shorter than four years - and not anyone convicted of sexual or domestic abuse offences.

Scottish Tories shadow justice secretary Russell Findlay said: “Scotland’s prison crisis is the result of 17 years of SNP dereliction.”

The Scottish Prison Service said: “Our population has increased rapidly in the past few weeks, in a way which was not anticipated.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson added: “HMP Kilmarnock is a safe, secure and well-run establishment.”

Don't miss the latest news from around Scotland and beyond - Sign up to our daily newsletter here.