Inspection of HMP Inverness
The inspection took place from 13 to 24 November and Diego Quiroz, Policy Officer at the Scottish Human Rights Commission attended to support a human rights based approach to the inspection.
The Commission has been involved in the inspection of several of Scotland’s 15 prisons to ensure that the human rights of prisoners are being respected.
HMP Inverness, opened in 1902, is one of the oldest remaining prisons in Scotland. Whilst efforts have been made to maintain its cleanliness and upkeep, some areas are no longer fit for purpose. Access for disabled prisoners was limited, which meant that certain individuals were being discriminated against and reasonable adjustments were not being made to allow full participation in prison life.
Summarising the inspection findings, HM Chief Inspector of Prisons for Scotland, David Strang said:
“It was disappointing to note that there had been a very high turnover of senior leaders since the last inspection in 2014. Continuity of leadership is an important factor in developing relationships within the prison and providing consistency of direction for the staff. Such a rate of change of Governors had clearly been unsettling for the prison.
"The prison is too small to accommodate all the prisoners sent to it from the courts in the north of Scotland, resulting in prisoners being regularly transferred to prisons in other parts of Scotland. These transfers often happened at short notice, which inevitably disrupted family contact and continuity of medical care, and can result in a more challenging than necessary reintegration process.
"There were no female prisoners in HMP Inverness at the time of the inspection. However there was a dedicated area that could be utilised to accommodate them. I would encourage the SPS and HMP Inverness to make use of this facility to allow female prisoners to be closer to their family and friends, especially as they near release.
"Throughout the inspection it was clear that there were positive relationships between staff and the prisoners, which contributed to a sense of safety and order in the prison. I was impressed with the level of commitment and flexibility shown by the staff to meet the needs of the prisoner population.
"One area of concern was an evident disconnect between the residential staff team and those working from the Links Centre. Senior management within the prison have a clear responsibility to address these shortcomings, in particular within the Offender Outcomes area.
"In a number of areas of prison life, it was apparent that staff relied on well-intentioned informal and undocumented processes in their dealings with prisoners. There is a real risk that this informality may leave staff vulnerable to challenge and without the appropriate evidence to support their actions.
"The effectiveness of individual case management was reported to be hampered by prisoners being unwilling to engage in the generic assessment process. The result was that many prisoners did not address their offending behaviour needs.
"As in other prisons in Scotland, access to benefits and housing remained a challenge for people leaving prison. The dedicated Throughcare Support Officers were able to support a number of prisoners, but their capacity was inevitably limited by the geography of the region. It was encouraging to note that unlike all other Scottish prisons it was possible to support prisoners in their applications for Universal Credit, whilst they were still in custody, through a dedicated internet link with DWP.
"A new Prison Visitors Centre run by Action for Children opened in July 2017, this is a welcome development but there is much work to be done to ensure that its potential is maximised.
"Health care provision was, on the whole, well regarded by prisoners. However, the lack of adequate facilities in the Health Centre in addition to the on-going staff shortages made for a challenging environment for the Healthcare Team.
"Staff and prisoners reported concerns about the recent influx of what they referred to as “Spice” or NPS. This had created some uncertainty and anxiety within the establishment, with staff and prisoners having witnessed individuals acting in an unusual and unpredictable manner. SPS must undertake more research into the impact of Spice and NPS within their establishments.”