Prisons chief finds throughcare failings at HMP Kilmarnock

David Strang

An inmate at one Scottish prison lived in a tent for eight weeks after his release and deliberately reoffended in the hopes of being caught and imprisoned again so he would have “ a dry bed, warmth and shelter”, a new report states.

HM Chief Inspector of Prisons for Scotland, David Strang, today launched his report of an inspection of HMP Kilmarnock carried out in November 2016.

While Mr Strang found failings in throughcare he also commended a number of practices at the prison. The ability for the families and friends of prisoners to pay money into the prisoner’s personal cash account via a secure on-line payments system offered significant benefits. The facility for prisoners to pay outstanding rent arrears from their prison earnings was an “excellent” initiative. The prisoner-operated digital information system, known locally the ATM, was an “effective means of communication with the prisoners”.

While there were positive aspects of the delivery of healthcare in the prison, the physical infrastructure of the health centre hindered the ability to deliver good quality services. Confidentiality was not always maintained during consultations and more effective arrangements needed to be put in place to maximise patients’ attendance at appointments.

Mr Strang, said: “I was pleased to note that family contact officers at HMP Kilmarnock were highly valued for the support they provided for prisoners and their families. This is vital work, as positive and on-going links with family is a key factor in successful reintegration.”

“I wish to comment on the issue of transitioning from prison custody back into the community. Returning to the community from prison is challenging; many individuals require more direct support than is always available to them. We spoke to one prisoner who was admitted from court on a shoplifting offence, who told us he had been living in a tent for eight weeks since his last release from prison, because no accommodation had been available for him. He subsequently deliberately shoplifted in the hope that he would be caught and sentenced, seeing this as the only way for him to access a dry bed, warmth and shelter.

“These are not the circumstances we want people leaving prison in 21st century Scotland to have to face. However, it is not a situation that can be resolved by the prison service alone. This requires a dedicated and co-ordinated response by all those involved in supporting people in the criminal justice system and beyond.

“It was also disappointing that there were no dedicated throughcare support officers at HMP Kilmarnock. This was explained as being a consequence of the contract. It is unsatisfactory that prisoners in HMP Kilmarnock were being denied the same level of throughcare support that they would have received if they had been located in a different prison in Scotland.”

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