Shotts jail tops list of 430 illegal Facebook investigations

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THE jail housing many of Scotland’s worst offenders has topped a list of investigations into illegal use of Facebook behind bars.

Prison officers at Shotts have launched 80 investigations into convicts logging on to Facebook in the past five years.

The North Lanarkshire jail houses male prisoners serving sentences over four years – and contains the National Induction Centre (NIC) which prepares those set to serve stretches longer than eight years.

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Staff at privately-run HMP Addiewell, in West Calder, West Lothian, undertook the second highest number of investigations into Facebook profiles being run from prison.

Bosses at the jail – one of the country’s two private prisons – had to conduct 65 investigations into the number of accounts being used behind bars.

The figures were revealed through a Freedom of Information (FOI) request to the Scottish Prison Service (SPS).

Documents provided revealed that in the past five calendar years staff across the SPS have undertaken a total of 437 investigations into Facebook accounts being used behind bars.

The Scottish Prison Service claim the visit will not lead to prisoners trying to escape

Prisoners are not permitted to use the internet behind bars – therefore it is likely that many are logging on using contraband smart phones.

HMP Edinburgh came third in the table – with 48 investigations over the same time period – and HMPs Perth, Polmont and Glenochil came joint fourth with 30 investigations each.

HMP Cornton Vale – Scotland’s principle prison for female offenders – and HMP Inverness had the lowest rate of investigations into Facebook usage.

At both prisons officers undertook just five investigations into contraband Facebook accounts over the last five years.

Last year the SPS launched an investigation into killer Derek Ferguson – who used Facebook to contact women from behind bars.

The 30 year-old was released from prison early after an axe attack in 1999, but went on to murder 16 year-old Steven Pettigrew in 2005.

And in 2012 Ian Clark – who was jailed for a brutal assault on a fellow bus passenger with a pool cue – boasted on social media: “BOYAH!!! we have facebook get it up the SPS.”

The 25 year-old made another post soon after, revealing that guards at HMP Edinburgh had failed to find the phone he used to access Facebook.

A spokeswoman for the SPS said: “We do not permit access to the internet and therefore to social media sites.

“SPS cannot close social media profiles. Upon identification of a profile for a prisoner, we request removal from the site.

“The SPS only has the ability to investigate and request removal of Facebook accounts that are proven to be accessed while a prisoner is in our care.

“The possession of a mobile phone in prison is a criminal offence. If we receive information to suggest that prisoners are in possession of such devices we will take all appropriate action and report it to the relevant authorities.”

In 2010, the former prisons inspector, Clive Fairweather, claimed that Addiewell and Scotland’s first private jail, Kilmarnock, were cutting back on staff and training to reduce costs.

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