PRISON bosses in Scotland will spend £2million pounds beefing up security – to stop their own staff smuggling in drugs and mobile phones.
The Scottish Prison Service (SPS) has confirmed its plans to improve security at publically-funded lock-ups across the country.
It will start by paying out an “incredible” £200,000 to improve the staff entrance of notorious HMP Barlinnie, with similar work being undertaken at other institutes.
Known as ‘Bar-L’ by inmates, the Glasgow prison houses twenty percent of all Scotland’s criminals, with gang lords and sex offenders amongst those held inside.
Critics have slammed the spending, calling it a waste of taxpayer money that could be bad for prison officers’ morale.
But the SPS claim that making improvements to staff entrances is an “appropriate measure” to keep the boundaries of the prisons secure.
An SPS spokesman said it was possible that 10 out of the 14 prisons monitored by the SPS could have the improvements work, meaning taxpayers would pay up to £2million to clamp down on corrupt visitors and prison officers.
Kevin Coulter, a prison officer from Bathgate, was jailed for 40 months after smuggling £32,000 worth of heroin into Addiewell Prison in July last year.
In 2006, lawyer Angela Baillie – known as Ally McDeal – was caught smuggling heroin into one of her clients at Barlinnie.
Even a cook, Vito Alongi, was caught trying to smuggle in steroid tablets for inmates into Addiewell in August 2010.
The start date of the works at Bar-L has yet to be declared, but work has been given the go-ahead by Scottish prison bosses.
Eben Wilson, Director at TaxpayerScotland, is angered that the public are being forced to cover the costs of a few “wayward prison officers”.
He said: “Scottish taxpayers can be rightly shocked to find that the behaviour of a few wayward prison officers has led to the need to spend these incredible sums.
“What on earth are the senior management of the SPS doing when their priorities turn to frisking their own staff at the gates of their workplace?
“What sort of message does this offer; they are wasting our money through a lack of leadership that can only wreck morale among their staff.”
A spokeswoman for Mothers against Murder and Aggression (MAMAA) said she hoped the large sum of money could be justified by the prison service.
She said: “If there is evidence or suspicion that offenders are accessing contraband via staff, then all efforts should be made to address this. Contraband is an issue that can cause great distress to those bereaved by homicide.
“Most of those employed by our prison services behave in a lawful and appropriate fashion, so we hope that the large amount of money being spent on this initiative can be quantified.”
Phil Fairlie, chairman of the Scottish Prison Officers Association, said spending £200,000 beefing up security at Barlinnie does not mean there are “problems of trust” with prison officers.
He said: “It’s a general security upgrade from the Prison Service that’s taking place. It’s all about upgrading the current front of house.
“A lot of the prisons across the country are going through this change, some already have done.
“They are installing new more sophisticated equipment like metal detectors at the points of access so as to cut down on items being taken in.
“Staff can come and go through the front gate in a whole lot of ways as it’s an area that has public access.
“There are not just prison officers – there are contractors, visitors and guests.
“We’ve no indication that the Prison Service has any problem of trust with prison officers.”
The controversial work has been given the go-ahead despite comments made by HM Chief Inspector of Prisons, Brigadier Hugh Monro, in November 2011.
Speaking at the time, Mr Monro said: “Barlinnie needs to be demolished and rebuilt” before 2020.
In a separate report of Scottish prisons, the Chief Inspector also said: “It seems wasteful to spend significant amounts of public money on programmes to address, for example drug addiction, when an average of 17.5% of prisoners on liberation from closed establishments are still testing positive for drugs.”
A spokesman for the SPS, said the security upgrades are just “routine”.
He said: “These security upgrades will be going right across the country as part of a constant review of our systems and make sure the appropriate measures are in place to keep the boundaries of the prisons secure.
“Some of the newer prisons that have been built won’t need as much done to them because they will already have the upgraded systems in place.
“Technologies change, and with it comes advantages. There will be new systems in place such as metal detectors, all of which is just routine in making sure our prisons stay secure.”