Prison watchdogs’ mixed report on HMP Edinburgh



EDINBURGH’S flagship prison has been slammed for failing to attract prisoners to their state-of-the-art workshops – despite a recent £120 million refurbishment.

Prison watchdogs have called the situation at HMP Edinburgh as “a shameful waste”, in the latest official assessment of the jail released today.

The unannounced January inspection also revealed that life for the prisoners during the weekends is “mind-numbing” and “the atmosphere of the prison changes noticeably” during those periods.

Conditions for remand prisoners was also heavily criticised with the report describing their living conditions as “the bottom of the heap”.

And nearby Linlithgow Sheriff Court also received a damning condemnation for its “cramped, noisy and dirty” conditions.

Surprise visit

The capital’s jail has undergone a £120 million overhaul during the past five years and now boasts “excellent living conditions”, according to the Government inspectorate.

Inspectors sprang the surprise visit, only the second ever unannounced assessment in a Scottish jail, in an effort to stop prison staff “manipulating the visit”.

However, Dr Andrew McLellan, Chief Inspector of Prisons for Scotland, described the overall facilities at the jail as “simply outstanding”.

He said: “Edinburgh Prison is almost entirely new. With the exception of one hall built 11 years ago the whole prison has been rebuilt in the last five years.

“The investment has been at least £120 million. There is clear evidence of benefits that the rebuilding has produced.

“Living conditions for all convicted prisoners are good.”

Shameful waste

But Dr McLellan went on to describe his “disappointment” of the empty workshop situation at the prison – blaming overcrowding and staff shortages for the lack of participation.

He said: “The new training workshops, the new kitchen and laundry, and the new gym and fitness room are very impressive.

“[But] on every occasion when the workshops were visited some (sometimes many) of them were empty.

“These workshops are an outstanding resource to train people for work when they return to society and to allow them to spend their prison sentences doing something useful.

“It is a shameful waste that they should regularly be lying empty.

“Prisoners must learn to go to work every day just like everyone else in society.

“Unfortunately, staff shortages and overcrowding play their part in the situation.”

Regional court conditions slammed

The report was also highly-critical of the holding room conditions at Linlithgow Sheriff Court which it described as “cramped, noisy and dirty”.

The historic Sheriff Court is currently up for sale and the service will relocate to a new building in Livingston later this year.

And although prisoners appearing at Linlithgow are said to be “well treated by escort staff” Dr McLellan’s report is scathing in its condemnation of the court’s dilapidated facilities.

He states: “There are no facilities in any of the cells and only one toilet outside the cells. The best that can be said of the toilet is that it is adequate.

“There were no hygiene bins for females.

“Overall, the holding cell area is cramped, noisy and dirty.”