A LARGE portion of inmates at a Scottish prison told inspectors they had been abused, threatened, bullied or assaulted by members of staff. 

HM Inspectorate of Prisons for Scotland (HMIPS) visited HMP Addiewell in West Lothian in November last year and released a report on its findings on Thursday, raising significant concerns about the “enduring challenges” impacting the safety and security of the facility.

During the visit, inspectors found 40% of prisoners said they had been subjected to abuse, threatening behaviour, bullying or assault by staff, with 60% claiming they had witnessed this behaviour towards other prisoners.

The full inspection report said staff, on occasion, spoke to prisoners in an unprofessional way and found relationships between the workforce and inmates to be poor due to a lack of experienced staff and shortages.

Only 29% of prisoners said they felt safe, with the report stating: “HMIPS is deeply concerned that prolonged feelings of unsafety, lack of security and fear could have a significant detrimental impact on prisoners’ mental health, not to mention the potential risk to physical safety.

“We were not satisfied that HMP Addiewell were taking sufficient action to address these concerns, and in our judgment there is a potential risk that violations of this right will arise.”

The inspectors also found prisoners were not receiving their full 60 minutes of fresh air they are entitled to.

Poor levels of cleanliness was found in residential blocks at the prison, which opened in 2008.

Access to healthcare at the prison was also rated as poor, with patient outcomes being compromised as a result of long waiting times.

HMP Addiewell is managed by Sodexo on behalf of the Scottish Prison Service (SPS). Inspectors have recommended both parties review the contract for the prison to ensure it does not “inadvertently inhibit the safe and effective management of prisoners” and “drives improved purposeful activity participation levels”.

HMIPS also emphasised areas of good practice, including the range of learning opportunities offered to prisoners and the use of digital technology.

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Inspectors said: “In conclusion, HMP Addiewell remains a frustrating conundrum.

“It is ahead of its SPS counterparts in embracing the potential of digital technology and shows commendable drive and commitment to embed new approaches such as the Early Days Centre and the use of ‘Insider’ peer mentors, but it struggles to provide the basics of a safe, controlled environment.

“Until the enduring recruitment and retention issues are fully resolved, and the prison can secure and retain sufficient experienced staff in all residential areas, there will continue to be an unacceptable risk to the safety of those in their care and a risk of continuing periods of instability.”

An HMP Addiewell spokesperson said: “Today’s report outlines a number of areas that must be improved, and we accept full responsibility for these.

“We have made significant financial investment into the prison, and whilst some subsequent positive developments have been reflected in the report, this investment has not, as yet, translated into sustained results in some key areas, such as safety.

“Recruiting and retaining an increasingly experienced team of staff is critical to improving relationships and performance in these areas. This is our priority.

“Since the inspection, we have further increased levels of managerial support, altered the prison routine and started the rollout of a comprehensive improvement programme. These changes are starting to show early signs of making a positive impact, but this must now be sustained.”

An SPS spokesperson said: “This is a challenging report for Sodexo and the Scottish Prison Service. We accept it in its entirety, along with all the recommendations within.

“It is, of course, completely unacceptable that anyone in custody in Scotland, including a privately-run prison, should feel unsafe.

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“It is reassuring to hear Sodexo take full responsibility for this, and we will robustly monitor its commitment to taking the actions necessary to deliver the improvements needed.

“We have a responsibility to all people in prison custody in Scotland and, as this report makes clear, standards at HMP Addiewell have fallen short of the level people have a right to expect.

“Since the inspection took place, Sodexo’s response has seen early indications of improvement and they are now taking an approach that recognises the need to support and provide additional resources at a senior leadership level, with a more robust focus on performance and outcomes.

“We continue to rigorously monitor progress, with additional SPS resources on-site, to work closely with Sodexo, as well as continued engagement at the highest level of Sodexo UK and SPS, to ensure HMP Addiewell is a safe and secure prison, delivering positive outcomes for those in custody there, and supporting the wider justice sector, and our communities.”