A PRISON watchdog has criticised HMP Edinburgh for its “high” level of attacks by prisoners on fellow inmates.
Former Lothian and Borders Police chief constable David Strang, who is now HM Inspector of Prisons for Scotland, called for steps to reduce “tension” at Saughton which can spark violence.
His inspection report found that 187 prisoner-on-prisoner assaults were recorded between April last year and March, compared with 120 at Barlinnie. Six serious assaults also took place.
Mr Strang welcomed plans by prison bosses to set up a Violence Reduction Group and urged them to provide better analysis of the problem.
The report gave the jail a “satisfactory” review, calling it “well-run” with “generally positive relationships between prison staff and prisoners”. But Mr Strang called for greater inmate access to the library, better scheduling and a review of staff attendance to help improve the situation.
Figures showed that staff suffered assaults by prisoners on 22 occasions over the year although none were “serious”. Twelve were recorded in Barlinnie, ten at Low Moss and 15 at Perth.
Scottish Conservative justice spokeswoman Margaret Mitchell criticised the situation.
She said: “Clearly, Saughton has to look around to other prisons and work out what it’s doing wrong.
“Jails are supposed to be secure environments, and it will do nothing for rehabilitation if violence is allowed to break out in this manner.”
Security arrangements at the jail’s entrance were assessed as “variable” and did not “fully comply” with Scottish Prison Service (SPS) standards.
Visitors at the main entrance walk through an X-ray portal and past hand-held metal detectors and were also subjected to searches by staff and drug detection dogs. But those accessing the side of the main entrance encountered “less rigorous” checks with no portal and fewer searches by staff.
Mr Strang found the quality of prisoner accommodation to be “good”, but cited the Glenesk block as being in need of refurbishment. Glenesk houses 180 inmates when the design capacity is 125.
The report, which had 69 recommendations, highlighted a shortage of care for inmates with mental health and addiction problems and recommended a review “as a matter of urgency”.
Mr Strang concluded: “Overall this is a satisfactory report, which highlights areas of good practice and identifies where there is potential and opportunity for improvement.”
An SPS spokeswoman said: “The SPS welcomes HMIP comments that HMP Edinburgh is a well-run prison, highlighting in particular positive relationships between prisoners and staff.
“The safety and security of the public, prisoners and staff is the top priority for the SPS. Prisoner violence against other prisoners or staff is not tolerated and assaults are immediately reported to police. HMP Edinburgh continues to review prisoner violence to minimise this, where possible.”