Prisoners should be given “thicker mattresses” and “softer pillows”

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PRISONERS in Scotland’s biggest jail should be bought thicker mattresses and softer pillows, according to the prison watchdog.

The controversial claims come in a new inspection report by HM Inspectorate of Prisons for Scotland (HMIPS) on Glasgow’s Barlinnie Prison.

As well as urging improvements to bedding, the report has said showers should be hotter and in-cell furniture is too “well-worn” and should be replaced.

But the Scottish Tories criticised the call, urging the priso
n service to “stand firm” against a “rising trend of spurious complaints”.

The report – authored by Chief Inspector David Strang – follows an 11-day inspection of the 1,241 capacity prison in May.

It comes after the revelation that the jail now holds 246 men convicted of sex crimes – four times as many as there were five years ago.

Regarding bedding, Mr Strang wrote: “The SPS should consider reviewing their mattress specification as the ones currently provided are thin and when compressed it was possible to feel the bed structure below.

“The pillows provided were very hard and not of the standard that we had found in other prisons.”

When checking the showers, he found “that hot water did not start to come through until the third time the valve was pressed and when it did, it was only lukewarm.”

He added: “Hot water should be available when required, this situation needs to be examined and resolved.”

On furniture, he writes: “Much of the “in?cell” furniture was well?worn and in certain cases required replacement.

“This made it difficult for prisoners to keep their cells as clean and ordered as they would like.”

He also suggests that the gym area is “in need of decoration” after a leak, but praises it for its badminton and volleyball facilities.

He heaped more praise on “the recent addition of showers within the gymnasium” – saying it should be “commended”.

The report also notes a number of other “concerns” – including prison officers pressuring nurses to rush through assessments and a lack of disabled-accessible cells.

The report also notes: “There had also been a significant increase in the number of prisoners who had been convicted of sexual offences.

“The impact of these important changes continued to be felt, with a need for greater clarity of the roles and responsibilities of the staff affected.”

The report also lays criticism on officers for releasing prisoners with their belongings in transparent plastic bags.

According to the author: “Liberations were provided with clear plastic bags to transport their property which did not offer a great deal of privacy.”

The author also said that there was a lack of lso complained about privacy in the two man cells – which contain a single toilet.

He also said that a lack of private safes in the cells “made it difficult for prisoners to securely and confidentially store their papers and personal items.”

It also criticises the SPS for not making plans to replace the 134 year-old prison.

It reads: “We are disappointed that the SPS has not brought forward plans for the replacement of HMP Barlinnie or delivered the necessary investment to address the issues identified previously, yet have invested significant sums in other parts of the establishment.”

It also rated the ability of the prison to deal with disabled prisoners as “poor” – saying that it was “not fit-for-purpose”.

The general marking awarded to the prison was “satisfactory performance”, noting that the prisoners and officers had “excellent” relationships.

Scottish Conservative shadow justice secretary Douglas Ross said: “Nobody would expect prisoners to sleep in squalor or in discomfort.

“But there is a rising trend of spurious complaints made by inmates and their legal representatives, in an attempt to achieve nothing else but causing inconvenience to the prison service.

“That’s why the Scottish Prison Service should stand firm on this type of thing.”

An SPS spokeswoman said they were pleased that the report “recognises efforts of staff at HMP Barlinnie to limit the impact of outdated facilities on prisoners.”

They also said they were “pleased to note that the report recognises efforts of staff at HMP Barlinnie to limit the impact of outdated facilities on prisoners.”

They added: “Plans to replace HMP Barlinnie were first included in The Scottish Infrastructure Investment Plan in 2011 and there is ongoing work to find a suitable location for a replacement.”

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