HM Inspectorate of Prisons - HMP Barlinnie Inspection: 27-29 April 2004

Prison - Return Visit Inspection Report



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1.1 The visit to HMP Barlinnie was made as part of a programme to visit every prison each year in which a full inspection is not being made. In the course of such visits the purpose is to follow up points of note from previous inspections, to examine any significant changes, and to explore issues arising from the establishment's own assessment of itself. It should not be seen as an attempt to inspect the whole life of the establishment.

1.2 The Inspection Team comprised:

Andrew McLellan HMCIP
Rod MacCowan HMDCIP
David McAllister HMACIP
David Abernethy Inspector

June 2004



2.1 Barlinnie is an overcrowded prison. A sentence like that is included so regularly in Inspectorate reports that there is a danger of its importance being overlooked. It needs to be said again: Barlinnie is a hugely overcrowded prison. There are 804 cells and on first day of inspection there were 1220 prisoners. This was down from a peak of 1302 on the 22 and 24 March. The Inspection report one year ago said "overcrowding dominates nearly every conversation about Barlinnie". Since that was written overcrowding has got worse: the average daily population has risen by one hundred and fifty prisoners.

2.2 Cell-sharing where there is slopping out makes the process of slopping out more wretched still. Overcrowding does not bring with it any increase in fixed provision such as the kitchen, the laundry or the gym. Staff numbers do not rise. So the amount of time prison staff can spend with prisoners - a key matter in keeping relationships as good as they are and in providing opportunities for reducing reoffending - is increasingly restricted. It is very frustrating for prison staff who want to contribute to new directions for the lives of prisoners but who simply do not have the time. Very importantly, safety may be more at risk when a prison is so very much overcrowded: how can there be the time to make sure that the most vulnerable prisoners are identified when they enter the prison, when there are over twelve hundred admissions to Barlinnie every month.

2.3 It must not be taken for granted that Barlinnie will continue to function if prisoner numbers rise each year. But it is a matter of note that it functions at all in these circumstances. Indeed, the report will show that it is not merely functioning but progressing. The closure of 'A' Hall in order to install integral sanitation and the new arrangements in part of Letham Hall represent very significant steps towards the end of slopping out in Barlinnie. That will be an important day. Last year's report was critical of the food served in the prison. It is good that steps have been taken to make sure that it is less cold when it is served and that cutlery can be washed in a hygienic way where slopping out occurs: but the quality of the food eaten by prisoners is still not good.

2.4 Two serious matters raised in last year's report are no better. When prisoners enter Barlinnie they are kept in tiny holding cubicles - essentially cupboards with a bench seat. These have recently been painted: but they are still "oppressive" (as described in a recent judgment by a High Court judge). And some prisoners spend long hours locked up in their cells, particularly prisoners on remand. There are no longer remand prisoners, who have not been convicted of any crime, who are slopping out in Barlinnie; but there are very few signs that there are any more opportunities for them to spend their time in any useful way.

2.5 The inspection was carried out four weeks after the new private escort arrangements had begun at Barlinnie. This report confines itself to some initial observations about the conditions and treatment of prisoners under escort, but it is too early to make detailed comment.

2.6 This was the first follow up inspection to the full inspection of May 2003. A number of Recommendations and Points of Note were made in that report. One year later, 5 of the 12 Recommendations had been addressed; 3 had been partially addressed; 3 had not been addressed; and 1 was no longer relevant. Forty nine Points of Note had been made. Nineteen of these had been addressed; 10 had been partially addressed; 15 had not been addressed; 3 were ongoing; and 2 were no longer relevant.



10.1 Suitable arrangements for sanitation should be made in 'A' Hall (paragraph 2.4) and Letham Hall (paragraph 2.35).

Partially achieved. 'A' Hall was closed for refurbishment at time of inspection. However, the prisoners previously in 'A' Hall were now slopping out in 'E' Hall where they had been re-housed. 'A' Hall will be reopened in summer 2004 with integral sanitation in all cells.

The classification of some of the prisoners in Letham Hall has changed. The ground floor still houses the more vulnerable prisoners. These prisoners share cells and are required to slop out. The upper floor has changed from a sex offender unit to a unit for prisoners with low supervision status and who have progressed through the mainstream halls in Barlinnie. These prisoners can access toilets and showers during the night. It is hoped to extend this to the ground floor.

10.2 Steps should be taken immediately to stop the washing of cutlery and dishes in the slopping out area in 'A' Hall (paragraph 2.4).

Achieved. New procedures and new equipment mean that cutlery and plates are washed on the ground floor in a dishwasher and well away from the slopping out area.

10.3 Prisoners who are due to appear in court should have the opportunity and facility to shower or wash and shave before the court appearance (paragraph 2.5).

Achieved. Prisoners attending court are unlocked first so they can access showers and ablutions facilities before going to court.

10.4 Electric power in cells should be installed in 'A' Hall (paragraph 2.6).

Achieved. Electrical power is in the process of being installed into the cells in 'A' Hall.

10.5 Untried prisoners in 'A' Hall should have access to work or recreation, and should not spend as much time in cells (paragraph 2.7).

Partially achieved. Untried prisoners in 'A' Hall are now located in 'D' Hall. They can participate daily in recreation in that hall. However, work is not offered.

10.6 Arrangements for recreation, exercise and meaningful activities for untried prisoners in 'C' Hall should be reviewed (paragraph 2.22).

Not achieved. There is no work offered to untried prisoners. Recreation and exercise arrangements remain the same. Some untried prisoners attend education and take part in PT. It remains a major challenge for Barlinnie to involve untried prisoners in purposeful activity and allow them more time out of cell.

10.7 Ways should be found to allow young remand prisoners in 'D' Hall more time out of their cells for recreation in the evening (paragraph 2.29).

No longer relevant. Under 21 remands are now located in HMYOI Polmont.

10.8 The holding cubicles in Reception should be discontinued and a decent and proper Reception facility created (paragraph 5.3).

Not achieved. Cubicles have been redecorated and are cleaner; but their use continues.

10.9 Management should raise again, with the Chief Constable, the practice of including syringes which were in prisoners' possession on arrest in the personal property bags (paragraph 5.12).

Achieved. This issue has been raised through the Court Users Group and has been pursued. However, used syringes still arrive in prisoners' property.

10.10 The process starting when visitors book in at the visit desk to the start of the visit should be improved to keep waiting times to a minimum (paragraph 7.31).

Not achieved. Work is ongoing to resolve this situation, but waiting times are still too long.

10.11 A formal multi disciplinary Race Relations Monitoring Group should be set up (paragraph 7.67).

Achieved. A Multi Disciplinary Group has been set up and meets on a regular basis.

10.12 A system of transportation and storage should be introduced which retains the heat and quality of the food between point of cooking and point of serving (paragraph 8.13).

Partially achieved. New equipment in the kitchen, a new vehicle for transporting meals to the halls and new heated serving trolleys, as well as some changes to internal procedures have helped to retain the temperature of food. Nevertheless, the quality of the food is still criticised by prisoners.


11.1 The cells and landings in 'A' Hall are in urgent need of decoration and cleaning (paragraph 2.10).

Achieved. 'A' Hall was being refurbished at time of inspection.

11.2 Access to recreation in 'B' Hall should be improved (paragraph 2.16).

Not achieved. The arrangements are much the same as before. Of 100 prisoners on protection in 'B' Hall only 15 were allowed to attend recreation in the mornings. For the other prisoners, an average of 52 (25% of the non-protection population), attended in the evenings of the week we inspected. Twenty five percent (52) of the non-protection population attended in the evenings.

11.3 A review of the exercise facility in 'B' Hall is required (paragraph 2.17).

Achieved. There is now an egress at the back of the exercise area and staff are positioned at both ends of the area and in the middle.

11.4 More requires to be done to tackle the levels of violence in the prison (paragraph 3.2).

Achieved. Levels of violence have reduced considerably over the past year. In year 2002-03 there were 28 serious prisoner-on-prisoner assaults against a target of 11. In 2003-04 there were eight against a target of 11. In 2002-03 there were four serious prisoner-on-staff assaults against a target of one. In 2003-04 there was one (against a target of one). The prison is actively seeking ways to tackle levels of violence, including the setting up of an anti-violence group.

11.5 The Segregation Unit should be redecorated (paragraph 3.8).

Partially achieved. The ablutions area, kitchen and five cells have been redecorated. The rest of the area still requires redecorating.

11.6 Confidential notices in the Orderly Room should be placed where they cannot be seen by prisoners (paragraph 3.12).

Achieved. It is recognised that the Orderly Room is also a working office and the suggestion was made to install a blind over the notice board to ensure that notices continue to be screened.

11.7 Management should examine the reasons behind prisoners' perceptions that they will be treated unfairly if they make a complaint (paragraphs 3.13, 7.72).

Achieved. An audit of the CP system has been carried out, as well as a number of focus groups taking place. The reasons for the perception, however, are still unclear.

11.8 The MDT Unit should undertake weekend testing (paragraph 4.9)


11.9 Requests for suspicion drug tests should be acted on more frequently (paragraph 4.10).

Partially achieved. Suspicion testing declined markedly during November 2003 - January 2004 but is now occurring again. The figures for suspicion testing were:

























This requires to be monitored.

11.10 Time should be allocated for one-to-one detoxification counselling sessions (paragraph 4.17).

Not achieved.

11.11 The Alcoholics Anonymous meetings should be encouraged (paragraph 4.34).


11.12 Provision should be made for all prisoners to have a hot meal and a table at which to eat in on admission to the prison (paragraph 5.5).

Not achieved.

11.13 Greater provision in Reception should be made for first offenders and young people (paragraph 5.7).

No longer relevant. With the implementation of the new Prisoner Escort Contract, young remands go directly to, and are collected from, HMYOI Polmont. The system of holding them overnight in Barlinnie has stopped. This is welcomed. There are no specific arrangements for first offenders. A new "First 24 Hours" leaflet was available.

11.14 Routine provision and notices should be made available in Reception for individuals who do not speak English as a first language (paragraph 5.8).

Partially achieved. Clear instructions and phone numbers for contacting interpreter services were on display. Notices in 7 languages regarding the first 24 hours in prison were on display in the Links Centre. However, no notices were on display, despite being available in folders.

11.15 All admissions should attend induction on the weekday following their admission (paragraph 5.15).

Achieved. Provision is in place for all prisoners to attend the Links Centre on the weekday after admission. Those going to the Segregation Unit or otherwise held out of normal association (usually for Health reasons) are visited by Induction staff. The introduction of the Short Term Offender Needs Assessment instrument provides evidence of the considerable improvement in the provision of Induction at Barlinnie.

11.16 All prisoners should be given the opportunity to make a telephone call either during Reception or on admission to the Halls (paragraph 5.17).

Not achieved. The situation has improved with the introduction of the new telephone system which gives all admissions a credit to allow a phone call to be made. However, there is no routine access to telephones in reception. Nor is there a system in place which ensures that admissions can access a hall telephone. Two phones have been located in the Links Centre almost guaranteeing access to a phone on the second day, but this could be 12 hours after admission.

11.17 A procedure should be put in place for the minimum induction requirements to be met at the weekend (paragraph 5.18).

Partially achieved. There is a good leaflet "The First 24 Hours" and also translations of it. This would meet much of what is required; however, there was no observable system for issuing these. All admissions are interviewed and some information is given then. The Inspectorate was informed that hall staff will give a brief induction if required, but there is no observable system.

11.18 The induction needs of those who cannot read, non-English speakers and first offenders should be met (paragraph 5.19).

Achieved. The establishment of the Links Centre and the use of the STONA and its attendant Community Integration Plan have improved matters greatly. With most prisoners coming to the Centre within 24 hours and a range of internal and external providers present to interview or to arrange further contact, there is a better recorded and more systematic approach to Induction.

11.19 Consideration should be given to reviewing the Sentence Management structure and an action plan should be developed to address the backlog of work which has built up (paragraph 5.25).

Partially achieved. While there is still a backlog, there has been considerable work carried out in addressing LTP admissions since September 2003. Between September and March the percentage of completions has been:

Internal interviews:

between 91 and 100% completed each month


between 52 and 100% completed each month

Consent Forms:

between 87 and 100% completed each month


between 22 and 100% completed each month.


between 0 and 40% completed each month.

The situation is improving.

11.20 The defibrillator should be replaced (paragraph 6.10).

Not achieved.

11.21 There should be systematic training or refresher training in cardiac resuscitation (paragraph 6.10).


11.22 A comprehensive database of clinical information should be introduced (paragraph 6.14).

The introduction of G-Pass is designed to achieve this.

11.23 The use of a photograph for the identification of a patient prior to the administration of a medicine should be introduced to all areas of the prison (paragraph 6.27).

Achieved. This has made the distribution of methadone safer, and has been identified within the prison as an example of best practice. It is not common in other Scottish prisons.

11.24 The chair and fittings in the dental surgery should be replaced (paragraph 6.28).

Achieved. The relevant parts of the dental surgery have been replaced.

11.25 A list of prisoners who are due to see the dentist should be put up in the Halls, and this should be posted in good time to give prisoners sufficient advance notice (paragraph 6.30).


11.26 Consistent arrangements for the provision of interpreter services in the health centre should be in place (paragraph 6.43).

Achieved to the extent that arrangements are consistent. However, there may be some considerable time between a request for interpreter services and the provision of them.

11.27 Improved accommodation for the Education Unit is required (paragraph 7.1).

Not achieved .

11.28 A rolling programme for the renewal of computer hardware in the Education Unit should be established (paragraph 7.2).

Ongoing. The computer equipment is adequate.

11.29 Agreement on the new education contract is required (paragraph 7.3).


11.30 Management should examine why there has been a reduction of 18% in Prisoner Learning Hours (paragraph 7.5).

Achieved to the extent that it has been examined. The size of the building and costs were important aspects. New arrangements have increased the number of prisoner learning hours.

11.31 The involvement of Education staff during Induction should be increased (paragraph 7.5).

Achieved. This is better coordinated because of Basic Skills Assessment and Individual Learning Plans.

11.32 Attention should be given to ensure that education data is included on prisoner records on transfer from the prison (paragraph 7.5).

Partially achieved. The inclusion of data is still not consistent.

11.33 The staffing problems which appear to be creating obstacles to greater library usage should be resolved (paragraph 7.9).

Not achieved. There has been very little change in access.

11.34 All prisoners returning from work should be given the opportunity to shower (paragraph 7.23).

Partially achieved. Feedback from staff and prisoners was inconsistent on this issue but it does not seem to be easier for prisoners to access showers after work. It was disappointing to find that even those who did get to shower usually had to put on the same clothes because they only had one set of clothing.

11.35 The opportunity for training at work should be increased (paragraph 7.23).

Achieved. Barlinnie has a target to deliver 850 skills training modules in its performance contract for 2004/05. These include forklift training, PMO modules, welding and manual handling. There is also vocational training in hairdressing, industrial cleaning, painting and decorating and construction. A partnership has also been formed with a construction company which has led to four prisoners taking up full time employment with them on liberation having undergone training whilst in Barlinnie. It is hoped to form similar relationships with other employers. This is a unique and exciting development.

11.36 There should be sufficient telephone lines available to allow visitors to book a visit (paragraph 7.30).

Not achieved. There is still only one line available.

11.37 A review of the role of the Family Contact Development Officer should be undertaken to ensure the service matches the volume of visits (paragraph 7.35).

Partially achieved. A review of the visits spaces and uptake of this space is ongoing.

11.38 Facilities for PE should be reviewed (paragraph 7.36).

Not achieved.

11.39 All prisoners should be able to consistently have a shower after a session at the gymnasium (paragraph 7.36).

Partially achieved. Prisoners are still not able to shower before leaving the gymnasium. However, the refurbishment of halls has meant that there are more showers available and most prisoners have the opportunity to shower shortly after gym sessions.

11.40 The lack of sufficient and appropriate interview facilities in the Halls should be addressed, particularly the glass cubicles newly built in 'A', 'B' and 'C' Halls (paragraphs 4.15, 4.35, 6.21 and 7.47).

Not achieved. The interview facilities remain the same in 'B' and 'C' Halls. There are no dedicated interviewing facilities in 'E' Hall.

11.41 The provision of Chaplain-led prisoner activities should be reviewed (paragraph 7.62).

Not achieved. Chaplaincy staff shortages over the course of the year have meant that Chaplain-led prisoner activities have not been possible.

11.42 The appointment of a full time Chaplain to contribute to multi-disciplinary work should be considered (paragraph 7.63).

Ongoing. Two separate advertising and interviewing campaigns were held during the year. At the time of inspection, a full time chaplain had been identified but had yet to take up post.

11.43 The arrangements for handling Tribunal material in periods when the Lifer Liaison Officer is absent should be reviewed (paragraph 7.65).

Partially achieved. Three members of staff have now taken tribunals as part of their personal development.

11.44 Efforts should be made to ensure that all ethnic minority prisoners are aware of Prison Rules and issues during Reception (paragraph 7.68).

Not achieved. No notices were on display despite being available. There were instructions for staff about how to contact interpreter services although for evening admissions it was unlikely that an interpreter would be available until the following day. Staff interview all admissions and staff spoken to had no experience of having anyone on admission who could not be communicated with either in English or in another language.

11.45 All ethnic minority prisoners should be provided with appropriate menu choices to ensure they are confident in the quality of the food received (paragraphs 7.70, 8.9).

Achieved. An ethnic minority prisoner focus group has been formed, and a new menu has been created which incorporates choices suitable for all ethnic minority groups. Muslim prisoners are employed as caterers and they monitor the food purchased to make sure it meets their cultural and religious requirements.

11.46 Opportunities for Religious Assembly should be in place for all prisoners (paragraph 7.71).


11.47 All staff should be made aware of the contents of the SPS Race Relations Policy and Race Equality Scheme (paragraph 7.73).

Partially achieved. Staff training and awareness is ongoing with some 170 members of staff having received training during the year.

11.48 The kitchen facilities should be upgraded (paragraph 8.3).

Partially achieved. There has been some investment in the kitchen. New trolleys and second hand kitchen appliances have been obtained.

11.49 The arrangements for evening meals at the weekend should be changed (paragraph 8.11).

No longer relevant. A prisoner food focus group has been created which meets bi-monthly. Minutes from the meetings of this group show that consideration was given to changing arrangements at weekends to incorporate a hot evening meal. Prisoners rejected this because they prefer the "snack pack".


Race Relations

4.1 A Race Relations Development Manager was appointed for a one year period to progress this area of work. A Race Relations Manager and Deputy have also been identified. A multi-disciplinary Race Relations Monitoring Group has been set up, multi cultural association meetings are now held on a Tuesday afternoon, impressive translation packs are available in all of the halls; an application has been made to join "Language Line" (a telephone service linking callers to numerous translation services); and efforts have been made to ensure that dietary requirements are met and prisoners are confident that they are being met. Staff training and awareness has been ongoing throughout the year.


4.2 Since the last inspection, responsibility for some escorts (to courts in Glasgow and West Central Scotland) has passed to Reliance Secure Task Management. At the time of this inspection the new arrangements were only four weeks old and it was therefore too early to make a full assessment. In common with normal practice, inspectors spent time in Reception observing the handover of prisoners to, and the receipt of prisoners from, the new service. Additionally prisoners were asked about their experience of escorts as were staff from SPS and from Reliance.

4.3 Prisoners spoken to had no complaints and a number spoke positively about the attitude of and treatment from the escort staff. Working arrangements differ from the Police and SPS in that Reliance move only one prisoner at a time to or from vehicles. This has caused some delays, particularly in the first two weeks, although anecdotal evidence suggested that this was improving as the escorting staff gained experience. It did however require a member of the Prison's Reception to spend a significant amount of time controlling the door, thus reducing the number of Prison Reception Staff available to manage prisoners at busy times.

4.4 Examination of the escort vehicles was also carried out. These are compartmentalised vehicles with single cubicle provision for 6 or 14 prisoners. The vehicles are functional, although no seatbelts are provided in the cubicles. The vehicles have both heating and air conditioning. There is a fridge for the storage of water and, in due course, snack meals for longer journeys. At the time of inspection, the longest journey time was approximately two hours and 30 minutes to Dumfries. All journey times are logged.

4.5 Two positive trends which emerged were that with more frequent transfers from the courts, prisoners arrived at the prison more regularly throughout the day, easing the pressure on Reception. This had the added advantage that prisoners spent less time in court cells and in Reception.


4.6 The previous inspection report noted that "the administration of substitute …. Medicines pervades the work of the prison." At that time, 171 prisoners were being prescribed Methadone. At the time of this inspection, that number was 240. This reflects the position in the wider community since methadone prescription is only given to those who are already on a prescription. What was noticeable was how much better organised the prison is in dealing with this. Last year, prescription took much of the day to complete, on the second day of the current inspection it was completed by 11am. This is allowing Barlinnie to make better use of staff time and the Addictions Centre.

Links Centre

4.7 The Links Centre is now well established and a daily Induction Programme is in place. This allows a "fast track" induction for those who have recently been in prison but also the provision of a second day programme for new admissions and those who have not been in prison for six months or more. The use of the STONA/CIP is very encouraging as is the planned national Induction Programme. The Centre provides spaces for a range of agencies and providers to meet with prisoners during induction. It was however surprising to find that the Prison based Social Work Department did not attend the Links Centre. One excellent innovation was the appointment of two members of the Samaritan trained prisoner Listener Scheme as domestic workers in the Links Centre. This ensured the availability of a Listener for any formal referrals. It also allowed the Listeners an opportunity to explain and promote the scheme informally and provide informal contact with new admissions.