HM Inspectorate of Prisons: Report on Young Offenders in Adult Establishments

Prison - Full Inspection Report
Young Offenders

Executive Summary

ISBN 978 0 7559 7434 4
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Note to the Scottish Ministers



Friarton Hall

Darroch Hall

Bruce House

Annex 1

Annex 2


The Scottish Ministers

In accordance with my terms of reference as Chief Inspector of Prisons for Scotland, I forward a report of a focused inspection carried out on Young Offenders being held in Friarton Hall, Darroch Hall and Bruce House in November 2008.

Andrew R C McLellan signature

HM Chief Inspector of Prisons

January 2009


1.1 This was a focused inspection of the conditions in which young offenders are held and the treatment they receive in smaller units within adult establishments.

1.2 Most male YOs are held in HMYOI Polmont. However, there are significant numbers now being held in Friarton Hall (part of Perth prison although physically detached from it) and Darroch Hall (in Greenock prison). Almost all female young offenders are held in Bruce House in Cornton Vale prison, although some classed as "At Risk" will be held elsewhere in Cornton Vale. During the week of the inspection there were 550 convicted young offenders being held in Polmont, 83 in Friarton, 45 in Darroch and 29 in Cornton Vale.

1.3 The inspection examined the conditions for and the treatment of YOs received in the three 'units'. It was also concerned to discover if the males were better or worse off on a range of criteria than they would be in HMYOI Polmont:

  • Are they as safe in Friarton and Darroch?
  • Are the conditions as good?
  • Do staff treat them with respect?
  • Are they closer to their families?
  • Have they the same opportunities?
  • Are they better positioned to access local services and prepare for release?
  • Are they disadvantaged by the presence of adult prisoners?

1.4 The inspection was also concerned to examine how the arrangement for holding YOs in Cornton Vale, where they mixed on a regular basis with adult prisoners, was working.


2.1 Even the newly rebuilt Polmont, with its 623 places, is not nearly big enough to hold all the young male convicted offenders in Scotland. During the inspection it held 723 people under 21 years of age (550 convicted, 173 remand), so it is very overcrowded. Since the new residential accommodation was built, every inspection report has drawn attention to the tragic waste of the excellent opportunities provided by the good accommodation - wasted because of overcrowding. Recently, young convicted men have been held in two other places as well: in Friarton Hall in Perth and in Darroch Hall in Greenock. This inspection was an inspection of their conditions and treatment.

2.2 The other group of convicted people under 21 years of age are young women. Since the closure of accommodation for women in Aberdeen, Dumfries and Inverness, they are all held in Cornton Vale. Their conditions and treatment are also the subject of this report. So it is a report on the imprisonment of all those convicted people under 21 years of age who are not in Polmont.

2.3 Almost all of the comments of the young offenders in Greenock and Perth about their experience were positive. Almost all of the comments of the young offenders in Cornton Vale were negative.

2.4 Inspection is about much more than listening to prisoners, however important that is; and there are many different reasons why prisoners might describe their situation as good or bad. Nevertheless, the difference between the attitudes of the young men and the young women is striking. The report provides evidence that the different attitudes arise from quite different environments and situations, and are not merely fanciful. The Darroch Hall and Friarton Hall experiences are different; but their differences are insignificant compared with the similarities; the Cornton Vale experience, however, is quite different from the other two.

2.5 Four key factors contribute to the difference.

2.6 In Greenock and in Perth the young men live in their own separate hall, quite apart from adult prisoners. In Cornton Vale the young women live mostly in half of an adult hall and partly in two or three other halls across the prison. It is so much more difficult to develop a sense of community and of a unit with a common life than it is in the young men's units. Nearly every part of the life of young women in Cornton Vale is shared with adult prisoners.

2.7 In the dining halls in Darroch and Friarton the atmosphere is positive, with everyone sitting at tables. The food is exceptionally good and there is plenty of it. In Cornton Vale the young women have to carry their meals along long and twisting corridors in order to eat them, sometimes perched on the arm of a sofa in a cold recreation room where they are sometimes joined by adults. The food itself is not nearly so attractive nor as plentiful. For young people, and particularly for young people with little to do (as in Cornton Vale) the importance of a dismal eating experience, repeated day after day, cannot be over-estimated.

2.8 Recreation facilities for the young women are practically non-existent. There is not even a television in one of the recreation rooms. For the young men there is satellite television, pool, table tennis, and electronic games. Hardly any young women attend PE, and when they do the sessions are held with adults: the provision in both Darroch and Friarton is very good and tailored to young people.

2.9 There is very little for the young women to do. Members of the Visiting Committee described the normal day for women under 21 years of age in Cornton Vale as "completely futile". In Darroch and in Friarton nearly everyone was at work: the opportunities include machine and wood assembly workshops, gardening, catering, car valeting, painting and decorating and hairdressing.

2.10 The arrangement by which prisoners under 21 years of age in Cornton Vale are in several respects merely a small part of a larger prison is not working. At the very least they deserve separate accommodation and a separate regime and separate staff. They also deserve to have more people thinking about them. At the moment there is no-one in the Scottish Prison Service whose sole responsibility is the management and the care of young women under 21 years old. Until such people are appointed it is difficult to see that their treatment and conditions will improve.

2.11 Overcrowding does its damage everywhere; and young offenders in Cornton Vale suffer from it. There are far more of them than there used to be; and Cornton Vale itself is very full indeed. So these young women become marginalised in the crowd. They also suffer from being scattered in different parts of the prison (although the majority are in Bruce House). At one time all young women were held in Skye House. They had to be moved out after a fire: there has not been a single hall to hold them all since.

2.12 It is not only in comparison with the circumstances of young women on Cornton Vale that the circumstances of young men in Darroch Hall and Friarton Hall seem good. It is also in comparison with the circumstances of young men in Polmont. Perhaps that difference is the most powerful argument there is for the harm done by overcrowding. For in these two smaller halls where there is no overcrowding this report gives evidence that so many things are done well: the prisoners feel safe, relationships are first-class, food is very good and prisoners spend a useful day out of cell at work or in education. Overcrowding at Polmont makes so much of that impossible. The irony is that it is the very fact that Polmont is so overcrowded which has made it necessary to set up these two "satellite" halls in Perth and Greenock.

2.13 It is, of course, possible that another factor explains why so many young men feel their circumstances are better in the smaller halls rather than in Polmont: it may be simply the fact that they are smaller halls. Can more be done within the huge building complex that is Polmont and with the huge numbers who are in Polmont to create a sense of smaller units with a corresponding sense of community and belonging?

2.14 One final concern is about the training of those who work with people under 21 years of age in prison. In most cases, certainly outside Polmont, the specific training which is available to those working with young people is not consistent and not accredited. This report shows that good things are being done. But these young offenders are among the most difficult and the most needy in the country. Those who are entrusted with working with them should be given every resource possible: they should be given the best training available.



3.1 Friarton Hall became a "top end" facility for young offenders from HMYOI Polmont in 2006. It is located one mile from Perth prison and is considered part of the prison. It is managed by the Governor of Perth, and overseen by one Unit Manager and three First Line Managers. In the year to the date of inspection 330 young offenders have been transferred from Polmont to Friarton.


3.2 Friarton has a design capacity of 89. On the day of inspection 83 young offenders were living there. Twenty two were serving sentences of less than one year, 23 were serving up to two years, 22 were serving sentences from two to four years and 16 were serving sentences of four years or more.

3.3 These prisoners were originally from all over Scotland, and from England. This highlights the distance that some families will have to travel to see the YO's and also the different areas of the country involved in preparing them for release. There is no video conferencing facility although this can be accessed at Perth.


3.4 The hall consists of single and double cells in two wings. There is one three bedroom dormitory and one cell for disabled prisoners. Young offenders are allowed to have their own personal bed covers and pillows. All cells have new curtains, and are bright, clean and tidy. Decoration is also good. During the inspection personal lockable drawers were being fitted in each cell.

3.5 There are no shower or toilet facilities within the cells, although communal facilities are available in each wing and can be accessed at any time. There are also showers in the gym area. The shower areas were clean, but require a degree of modernisation. Some were in the process of being fixed or replaced.

3.6 A range of information about the regime, the Visiting Committee, the Samaritans, education, and keeping in contact with family is available in each wing. There is no information on healthcare anywhere and information on the Enhanced Addictions Casework Service is only available in one wing.

3.7 Young offenders occasionally mix with adult prisoners in reception and at the dentist.


3.8 Young offenders dine together in a dining room. The food is served close to where it is prepared and is hot. The portions are large, there is lots of bread and a cold drink is available. There are sometimes opportunities for extra portions. The whole dining experience is very positive.


3.9 Friarton receives YOs directly from Polmont: none arrive from the courts. The first part of the admission process takes place in the reception at Perth prison. Following this they wait until transport and escort staff are available to take them to Friarton. There can sometimes be a significant delay between reception at Perth and transfer to Friarton.

3.10 On arrival at Friarton the remaining reception processes are completed and the YO is allocated a cell and provided with sufficient information to help him safely through the first night.

3.11 Residential officers deliver the induction programme on the day after admission. The programme covers a wide range of topics to help the YO maximise his time in Friarton. This includes information on work opportunities, community placements, visiting arrangements, the Incentives and Privileges scheme, and the Home Detention Curfew scheme.

3.12 Staff from the education department conduct a learning needs assessment and the prison based social worker and regimes manager also have a direct input to the induction process. Members of the chaplaincy and healthcare teams do not have an input. All YOs are allocated a job within a couple of days of their admission.

3.13 The induction programme covers all relevant issues and YOs feel that although it is shorter than the programme at Polmont it helps them settle into Friarton.

Suicide Risk Management

3.14 There have been no suicides since Friarton started receiving young offenders in 2006. All YOs undergo a full ACT2Care assessment before transferring to Friarton. Added to this is a supportive environment within which the YOs report feeling safe. Core competency for ACT2Care is at 100% for the Friarton staff group.


3.15 Relationships between staff and young offenders are very good. However, the training available to staff working with the YOs is not consistent and not accredited.

Family Contact

3.16 The arrangements for maintaining family contact are good. Three officers undertake the family contact development role alongside operational duties. The roles are well advertised throughout the hall. The visits facility is good, and the booking system is effective.

3.17 A family awareness session, where families of new prisoners are invited for a presentation and a tour of the establishment, is held on a Friday afternoon. During this visit the YO is able to show family members around the hall.

3.18 Families are encouraged to participate in Integrated Case Management meetings, although uptake is low.

3.19 Visitors spoken to were positive about the visit experience, and the support available from staff.


3.20 All young offenders have access to learning opportunities. Almost half (45%) participated in the education programme during the inspection week. There is a waiting list for education.

3.21 A full-time manager organises and manages activities within the learning centre and also has responsibility for the learning centre in Perth prison. The contract for the provision of these services is held by Carnegie College. The manager is supported in Friarton by 2.2 FTE teachers working part-time contracts. A 'reader in residence' is contracted from Perth and Kinross Council to provide imaginative, project-based learning. This staff member focuses on young offenders who would not otherwise attend education.

3.22 Learning centre resources for Perth prison overall are skewed in favour of the young offenders: twenty five per cent of education resources are expended on the 10% of YOs in Friarton.

3.23 Accommodation in the learning centre, whilst compact, is of a good standard.

3.24 The prison makes good use of external links to the local authority to provide additional learning support. Staff make effective use of a local credit union to support a course in money matters. Young offenders are not financially disadvantaged by attending education in favour of a work party. In fact, they receive a bonus of £2 for every SQA module completed.

3.25 Young offenders have recently been able to access a library. This is a small but well decorated and welcoming facility. Books and magazines are imaginatively displayed to attract prisoners' attention. The library does not contain legal documents or texts.

3.26 All YOs have individual learning plans developed within a week of admission. These usually result in YOs opting in to existing classes rather than tailored individual programmes. Basic skills assessments are conducted after YOs opt in to education. As a result, it is likely that some young offenders with literacy and numeracy needs are not accessing support.

3.27 Teachers develop positive and supportive relationship with the young offenders. They respond well to individuals' learning styles and preferences. Learning approaches are appropriate for the YOs. Relationships are good and the ethos and atmosphere in the centre is conducive to learning. Staff make effective use of group and one-to-one approaches.

3.28 Most YOs attending the learning centre value their learning and spoke positively about the support they receive from staff. The education programme, although limited, is based on needs. Education classes are popular and provide opportunities to develop new skills and further develop oral and written communication skills. Young offenders appreciate the opportunity to develop their ICT skills, support with finding employment through the Job Club and the practical help provided by the Money Matters course. Some YOs have access to the Duke of Edinburgh's Award, community placements and Prince's Trust projects.

3.29 Education provision is well focused on needs, and courses focus on the development of core skills. Where possible, YOs work towards appropriate SQA qualifications. The learning centre is able to deliver around 50 qualifications from Access 2 to Higher levels. There is no systematic approach for celebrating learners' achievements

3.30 Respectful and good relationships between prisoners and staff also contribute to the positive and purposeful learning environment. Young offenders value the support and opportunities they receive through learning opportunities.

3.31 Overall, young offenders enjoy and benefit from a range of purposeful activities in the learning centre. Appropriately qualified and approachable staff support the YOs to make suitable progress in a range of core skills. Young offenders actively engage in learning within a purposeful atmosphere for learning.

Work Opportunities

3.32 Young offenders have access to a range of work opportunities within the prison and are encouraged to attend. The majority (45) are employed in the machine and wood assembly workshops. Other opportunities include car valeting, gardening, catering and 'passmen'.

3.33 The only work related qualification available is for Fork Lift Driving. Two YOs have gained this qualification.

3.34 Seven young offenders were participating in community work placements.

Other Out of Cell Activities

3.35 Young offenders have access to a range of activities throughout the day and evening, and consequently they spend very little time in their cells. Young offenders from both wings mix freely in the recreation areas.

3.36 Evening activities include football in the open air three nights each week; access to pool tables; a film club one evening each week; and access to the gymnasium every evening.

3.37 The physical education facility is well used but a bit run down. It comprises a games hall, small cardio vascular room, a small weights room and an outside astro-turfed football pitch.

3.38 Enhanced PE is also available to a small number of individuals each week. This comprises mountain biking, swimming and hill walking. The PE staff recently supported a group of YOs undertaking the Duke of Edinburgh Award. Twenty four individual section awards were obtained with four candidates gaining a full bronze award.

3.39 In partnership with a community youth group the PE staff and prisoners have also participated in the development of an educational DVD which is used with groups of school children as part of a structured programme to provide information about youth offending and the consequences. Part of this programme also includes a visit to Friarton and discussions with young offenders.

Health Services

3.40 The healthcare facility consists of a medical room, small notes room and waiting area. These areas are functional but require redecoration and upgrading. There is a lack of health promotion literature or any information advertising what healthcare services are available.

3.41 There are no dedicated full-time healthcare staff working in Friarton, although a system is in place to "try to keep the same two nurses". The service is run as a satellite clinic of Perth prison with nursing staff visiting every day if required. A medical clinic is delivered on a needs basis. Previously, nursing staff attended the hall at 07.00hrs to attend to prisoners reporting sick. However due to staff shortages continuity of staff has been an issue and these visits are no longer regular. This causes friction between YOs and operations staff.

3.42 Young offenders and prison officers were openly critical about the level of healthcare provision that the YOs were receiving, believing that they were getting a reduced service. However, waiting lists and prisoner complaints using the SPS complaints system are minimal.

3.43 Young offenders are able to access, by self-referral, the same healthcare services available to prisoners in Perth. This includes dentistry, optician, chiropody, dermatology, sexual health, smoking cessation and mental health support. A specific session is held for YOs to attend the dentist, otherwise they would be placed on a general Perth prison waiting list. Referrals are made for secondary care where appropriate. Addictions nurse input is lacking.

3.44 All YOs who require medication keep this in their possession, and no supervised medication is dispensed. This is different from everywhere else in the SPS. The current service is resource rather than needs led. This could disadvantage some YOs in Polmont who require supervised medication but otherwise meet the criteria for transfer to Friarton.

3.45 Due to staffing difficulties no health promotion or young person specific immunisations are being undertaken.


3.46 There is no self-referral to the addictions nurse. As a result the addictions nurse only visits the hall to contribute to smoking cessation groups or to write home leave reports. A small number of prisoners had in the past requested support in relation to clinical prescribing prior to a home leave, but due to the "no supervised medication" policy this request was refused. No throughcare is undertaken by the healthcare team in relation to alcohol support.

3.47 There are currently 18 young offenders receiving one-to-one support from the Enhanced Addictions Casework Services ( EACS) Team based in Perth prison. They also deliver an alcohol group, but have not delivered any smoking cessation groups this year: this should be done in partnership with the addictions nurse.

3.48 There is very little information advertising the EACS. Self referrals are only available in one wing. Literature is scarce and not young person specific. EACS does not input into the induction programme and no one attends the regular session for families of new prisoners. No information is available on what services have been delivered to young offenders as outcomes relate to the whole of Perth prison. The addictions service should be needs driven and young person specific.

Partner Organisations

3.49 A wide range of partner organisations regularly support the YOs. Young Enterprise Scotland helps teams of YOs to develop and run a business. Apex Scotland offers throughcare assistance to YOs from the Dundee area by meeting with individuals prior to release to assess needs and offer support and training in the community. Shelter offers support and advice on accommodation issues. Career Scotland and Jobcentre Plus visit regularly. Several YOs in Friarton have benefitted from training from the Prince's Trust. The YOs also participate in a number of one-off community projects.

3.50 A very impressive range of community placements allows selected YOs to gain valuable work experience, and for some, the opportunity of apprenticeships. Inspectors visited two placements and were impressed with the range of new skills which can be obtained and the level of support and supervision available.

Preparation for Release

3.51 There are no offending behaviour programmes delivered in Friarton. A harm reduction programme is delivered prior to release by addictions staff but there is no alcohol programme. Some YOs are eligible for weekend Home Leaves.

3.52 Although there are no structured pre-release programmes individuals are supported through the transition back to the community. This is achieved through the wide range of partner organisations outlined above, the community work placements and the Home Leave Scheme.


  • Young offenders are treated very well and there is no desire amongst anyone to return to Polmont.
  • The catering arrangements are excellent.
  • A good induction programme is in place.
  • Friarton provides a supportive environment and young offenders feel safe.
  • Arrangements for maintaining family contact are good, and this is enhanced by Home Leaves.
  • All young offenders have access to education and almost one half were participating. Education is positive and purposeful.
  • A good range of work opportunities is available and very little time is spent in cells during the day and in the evening.
  • Young offenders do not have the same access to healthcare as adults in the prison.
  • A wide range of partner organisations in the community support the young offenders during custody and in the transition back into the community.



4.1 Darroch Hall is located in HMP Greenock. It opened as a young offender hall in 2007, and was set up to be a community facing "closer to home" unit taking young offenders from HMYOI Polmont who live in the local Community Justice Areas. A Unit Manager has responsibility for the hall, supported by three first line managers. Since September 2007, 272 young offenders have been transferred from Polmont to Darroch.


4.2 The hall has 54 cells and can accommodate 84 prisoners. On the day of inspection it held 68 prisoners, 45 of whom were convicted young offenders: the rest were young people on remand. Twenty seven were serving up to two years, 17 were serving sentences from two to four years and one was serving a sentence of four years and over.

4.3 These prisoners come from three Community Justice Authority Areas: Glasgow, North Strathclyde, and Southwest Scotland.


4.4 Darroch Hall is accommodation on two levels. Each room has integral sanitation. None of the toilets is enclosed although most have small modesty screens.

4.5 Most of the rooms have bunk beds which, along with property and other clutter, makes the rooms feel cramped. The windows are old and cause draughts.

4.6 Young offenders occasionally mix with adult prisoners in reception, the health centre, at induction, and during programmes.


4.7 Meals are served in a 'cafeteria' which provides a welcoming environment. There is plenty of food and extra portions are available. Bread is readily available and there is a drinking water dispenser. Fruit is available daily. The timing of the meals is also good. Dining is a positive experience in Darroch Hall.


4.8 The reception area has communal rooms and individual cubicles. The cubicles are very unpleasant and are small with only a fixed seat. They are used only in extreme circumstances. There is a good range of notices within the waiting rooms. Admission interviews and risk assessments take place in private and new admissions see a member of the healthcare staff in the health centre.

4.9 When YOs arrive in the hall they are given an in-depth induction. There is a lot of information given out at this point which could lead to information overload.

4.10 Newly admitted YOs receive enhanced support from the night shift staff to help them through the potentially risky first night.

4.11 The National Induction programme is delivered by one of five dedicated Links Centre officers. The room provides a welcoming environment. Convicted, remand and adult prisoners and the young offenders jointly receive induction on a Tuesday or Thursday morning. All prisoners receive all modules, despite the fact that some of the information is relevant only to those who are convicted. Addictions staff have a direct input to induction as do education staff who administer and analyse the 'alerting tool'.

4.12 If a YO returns to Darroch within six months after liberation he will not be required to undertake the full induction programme.

Suicide Risk Management

4.13 Since Darroch started taking young offenders there have been no suicides. Instances of self harm or attempted suicide are very rare.

4.14 There is a Listener scheme in place for adult prisoners in Greenock. Inspectors met with two of the Listeners who reported that they were generally well supported by staff but that they were not allowed to see YOs while they were located in Darroch.

4.15 The Suicide Risk Management Group meets regularly and minutes show broad attendance including Listeners and Samaritans. There is no record of chaplaincy involvement in the ACT2Care Policy. Staff competency levels in ACT2Care is 83%. All new admissions to Darroch Hall receive additional support from night shift staff.

4.16 There is an appropriate focus on all aspects of care for YOs in Darroch.


4.17 Relationships between staff and young offenders are very good. However, the training available to staff working with the YOs is not consistent and not accredited.

Family Contact

4.18 A major advantage of Darroch Hall is that the young offenders being held there are now closer to their homes. There are five visit sessions allocated to YOs each week. During these sessions they do not mix with adult prisoners. The visit facility is bright and spacious; hot and cold refreshments are available; and there is a children's play area. Information for families is readily available in the waiting area.

4.19 There are six identified Family Contact Development Officers (for the whole of Greenock prison), and this is in addition to other duties. None of these officers has had any specific training in family related issues. There is no family induction session for young offenders and no proactive family work is being undertaken.

4.20 Visitors spoken to were positive about the visit experience and the individual information and support available.


4.21 Young offenders have the opportunity for 4 x 1.5 hour sessions of formal education each week, and access their learning as an exclusive group. Formal opportunities include courses in communication and numeracy.

4.22 There is a variety of informal learning opportunities available including guitar, art and broadcasting. Staff expressed a desire to have more time with those who were engaging but this was not possible given the restrictions in staffing, timetable and accommodation that exist.

4.23 Evening classes take place in art, IT and craft generally one evening each week and YOs can also access their tutors at this time.

4.24 All YOs, along with adult prisoners, undertake the alerting tool to identify their level of ability and needs in respect of education and learning as part of the induction. This helps to ensure that programmes are suited to their needs.

4.25 All YOs who engage in learning have a learning log and plan which is regularly reviewed by staff and updated as necessary. Due to the small group set up, those YOs who have specific difficulties are well supported in overcoming their barriers to learning.

4.26 The shorter sessions of 1.5 hours duration work well for YOs and lead to a greater level of concentration and a better quality of work overall. Young offenders are catered for as a discrete group, and there is a greater chance of one-to-one sessions given the smaller numbers of YOs who engage in learning. Learning experiences for YOs are highly individualised and offender centred.

4.27 Certification is possible in the core skills of literacy, numeracy and ICT and other Scottish Qualification Authority units. Staff have generally found that the levels of literacy among YOs are higher than what they had predicted initially. Young offenders are given financial incentives for attending each education session and for successfully completing modules. Most of the YOs are successful in achieving units from Access 2 level through to Higher National Diploma. There have been several successes recently where at least two YOs have obtained employment and places at a Further Education College following their release.

4.28 There are very good relationships between YOs and education staff. Generally YOs were positive about their learning opportunities and would do more if it was available. Staff have a prime focus on increasing offenders' social skills as an integral part of their learning experience.

4.29 Accommodation within the learning centre is tight and although fairly limited is in good condition. Relationships between staff and YOs are very good and help create a very positive learning environment. Overall, YOs are positive about their learning opportunities.

4.30 There is a very good level of staffing and they are in the process of appointing another part-time ICT lecturer. There are three full-time and four part-time staff. All are degree qualified.

4.31 There is no library facility although plans are in place to provide a lending service. Currently there is no opportunity or facility for YOs to access reading material outwith the small informal lending section. This facility can only be accessed by those attending classes in the learning centre. Young offenders can request access to legal texts, and books in other languages had been acquired from other prisons for those who asked for them.

Work Opportunities

4.32 The majority of young offenders go to work every day. They do not mix with adult prisoners whilst at work. Only six YOs did not have a job: of these two had recently lost their jobs due to an incident in the work party and the others were new prisoners who had not yet been allocated work.

4.33 Work opportunities include VT painting and decorating; work in the kitchen; hairdressing; hall pass jobs; and the assembly joiners work party. Work related qualifications are available for the pass men, and in Painting and Decorating and Bricklaying. In the last year YOs have completed 73 modules in construction, 54 modules in painting and decorating and 140 British Institute of Cleaning Science modules.

Other Out of Cell Activities

4.34 Young offenders spend a lot of time out of their cells and have access to a range of activities throughout the day and evening. Their day is well structured and the YOs spoke of the "day going quickly".

4.35 Activities include football in the open air; access to pool tables; a weekly media studies group; Alcohol Anonymous; Drugs Anonymous; Routes Out of Prison; Caledonia Youth sessions on sexual health awareness; yoga; healthy eating; a drama workshop; and access to the gymnasium.

4.36 A recent initiative involved young offenders learning to play brass instruments and participating in a brass band concert. A recent award of lottery funding has enabled the teaching department, in conjunction with Govan Radio, to introduce a local young offender DJ radio class. Here young offenders are able to choose and mix music, develop and pre-record a radio show that is played to other young offenders at lunch or in the evening.

4.37 The physical education facility is well used. Young offenders have access to 13 sessions each week. The majority of sessions are full.

4.38 The area has a gym hall where YOs participate in tennis, badminton and circuit training. There is also a small weights room and a cardiovascular area. There are two astro-turf football pitches.

4.39 The Physical Eduction Team has 2.8 staff. When one officer is on duty 16 prisoners can access this facility. This increases to 32 when two officers are present. The team recently delivered a Fit for Life Course for YOs in conjunction with the Education Department.

Health Services

4.40 Young offenders have access to the same level of healthcare provision as adults in the prison. They have regular access to the doctor, nurse led services, addictions nurse, optician, dentist and psychiatrist. Waiting lists are minimal, with the exception of dental treatment where a prisoner can wait up to seven weeks. Prisoners have access to a nurse every day and can see the doctor within 72 hours or on the same day if urgent. Young offenders spoke positively of interactions with the healthcare team. The healthcare area is one of the few areas in the prison where YOs might mix with adult prisoners.

4.41 An officer from Darroch attends the multidisciplinary mental health team meeting. When "stepped up care" is required for YOs, the care plans are written in conjunction with the YO, the healthcare team and Darroch Hall staff to ensure that needs are fully met.

4.42 Young offenders attend the health centre for all healthcare appointments. The health centre is clean, but there are only two small consultation rooms to accommodate all of the visiting specialists and consequently it is cramped.

4.43 Some YOs are able to keep their medication in their possession. Others attend the health centre where they are given supervised medication. This ensures that they have access to the full range of clinical interventions where appropriate.

4.44 There is no healthcare induction programme. However there is a healthcare notice board in Darroch with ample healthcare information. Referral forms and healthcare complaint forms are readily accessible in the hall. Each cell has an appointment box which is emptied each morning by an officer.


4.45 Young offenders self refer to the addictions nurse. One-to-one work is undertaken with YOs receiving clinical treatment, and substance misuse throughcare is arranged. Although the addictions nurse is able to communicate the harm reduction policy there is no written procedure. Alcoholics Anonymous deliver a weekly session specifically for YOs.

4.46 Almost two thirds of YOs are currently working with the Enhanced Addictions Casework Service ( EACS). This is split evenly between alcohol and drugs support. The Caseworkers and Addictions Nurse have also delivered smoking cessation groups in the prison and these have included young offenders. The team actively promotes addictions throughcare, with referrals being made to the National Throughcare Addictions Service. Three YOs are working with these external teams.

4.47 Self referral forms are readily available as well as information on how to access the addictions team. The EACS provider delivers harm reduction awareness to all YOs on admission and prior to release. There has recently been agreement that this team will discuss sexual health with all young offenders prior to release. Literature is young offender specific. There are no EACS family awareness sessions for young offenders.

Partner Organisations

4.48 An impressive range of partner organisations support YOs pre and post release. Three partners provide support for housing issues. Jobcentre Plus has an onsite presence two days each week. The 'Routes out of Prison' ( ROOP) project is now available to YOs from the Inverclyde area.

Preparation for Release

4.49 Offending behaviour programmes for YOs are undertaken jointly with adults. The accredited programme 'Constructs', is supplemented by two approved programmes: 'Drug Action for Change' and 'Alcohol Awareness'. There are no offending behaviour programmes exclusively for YOs. Phoenix Futures staff deliver a pre-release harm reduction programme. A very good money and debt management advice programme called Financial Fitness is delivered prior to liberation.

4.50 Six weeks prior to liberation the Community Integration Plan is reviewed. A pre-release checklist is used to ensure all potential needs are highlighted. There are no specific pre-release programmes. There is however a structured approach to reviewing and addressing pre-release needs.


  • Young offenders are treated very well and no one expressed a desire to return to Polmont.
  • Young offenders occasionally mix with adult prisoners.
  • The catering arrangements are excellent.
  • A good induction programme is in place and good support is available to the young offenders during their first night.
  • Young offenders are well supported and feel safe.
  • Arrangements to maintain family contact are very good and this is enhanced by young offenders being located closer to their families.
  • More than half of the young offenders are engaged in formal learning opportunities.
  • The majority of prisoners go to work every day and very little time is spent in cell during the day and in the evening.
  • Young offenders have access to the same level of healthcare provision as adults in the prison.
  • Addiction support is readily available.
  • A wide range of community based partners support prisoners during custody and in transition back to the community.
  • There is a structured approach to addressing pre-release needs.



5.1 Since February 2008, Bruce House has been the national resource for young female offenders located in HMP Cornton Vale. There are two units which have individual, double and 'triple' cells. The units can accommodate 30 prisoners (both remand and convicted).

5.2 Young offenders and adult prisoners were sharing accommodation, although not cells, in the young offender unit during the inspection.

5.3 One Senior Manager has overall responsibility for Bruce House. He is supported by three first line managers. When the YOs are held in other halls, they are the responsibility of staff there.


5.4 On the day of inspection there were 29 young offenders living in Cornton Vale. Two of which were in the "top end" facility of Skye House and a further three (one of whom one was pregnant) were in Ross House.

5.5 The majority of these prisoners come from all over Scotland. Two YOs were from China.


5.6 Bruce House is accommodation on two levels. The rooms are on either side of a narrow passageway which gives the whole area a claustrophobic feel. There is no integral sanitation but YOs can access a toilet (although not all of the time) within the section. Most single rooms have two beds, which, along with property and other clutter, makes the rooms feel cramped. The rooms were cold and drafty. All cells have electric power.

5.7 Young offenders mix with adult prisoners in the accommodation areas, at work, during visits, at induction, in the gym, during meals, and during recreation. They are rarely kept separate.

5.8 At one time all young offenders were held in Skye House. They had to be moved out after a fire, and there has not been a single hall to hold them all since.


5.9 Meals for YOs are served a long way from where they are eaten. Lunch and evening meals usually consist of two courses which have to be carried through several doors and, for some YOs, up a flight of stairs. In each of the YO units the women dine in association but there are not enough spaces for everyone to sit at the table and some have to sit on a sofa with their meal on their knees.

5.10 The route which has to be negotiated between the servery and the dining space raises a number of health and safety issues such as carrying hot food and trying to open doors. The distance also means that the food loses some of its heat before there is an opportunity to eat it. Portions are not very large and only occasionally were extra portions available. The dining experience for YOs in Bruce House is very unpleasant.


5.11 Cornton Vale receives all YOs directly from court. The reception area has communal waiting areas which are glass fronted, allowing easy and effective supervision. All categories of admissions are held together in these communal rooms. Initial reception risk assessments are conducted in privacy.

5.12 Young offender admissions are generally located in one of the two sections in Bruce House. If a YO is considered to be at risk of suicide or self harm she will be held in Ross House until the crisis has passed.

5.13 A first night in custody form is completed by residential staff. The formal induction programme is delivered by dedicated staff in the Links Centre on a Monday, Wednesday and Friday. The day following admission is set aside for healthcare and addictions assessments and it is at least the second day after admission before a YO accesses the induction programme.

5.14 The programme itself is well structured and delivered at a pace which allows the information to be received and understood. There is no separate induction programme for young offenders. Convicted, remand and adult prisoners, and young offenders attend the programme together.

5.15 A number of partner organisations and internal service providers input to the second module. These include Routes out of Prison, the Legal Aid Board, Caledonia Youth, Alcoholics Anonymous, the Family Development Officer, the prison social worker and chaplaincy.

5.16 The core screen document is completed during induction by Links Centre staff.

Suicide Risk Management

5.17 The identification of women at risk of suicide or self harm is a high priority for Cornton Vale staff. Approximately two young offenders per month are subject to ACT2Care procedures. When someone is identified as being "At Risk" and the ACT2Care paperwork is opened the immediate care plan is person centred.

5.18 Any YO who is considered "High Risk" or "At Risk" is located in Ross House where there are appropriately furnished safe cells. If a high number of women require to be located in the safe cells some may be held in the Ross House "back cells" which provide a wholly inappropriate environment for anyone, let alone someone with mental health problems.

5.19 Case conferences are held within timescales and are appropriately attended. Decisions and care plans are clearly documented and easy to follow. There is a multi-sensory room in Ross House which has hardly been used since its installation due to staffing problems.

5.20 A Listener Scheme operates in Cornton Vale and at the time of inspection there were 12 Listeners all of whom were adult prisoners. Any YO can ask to see a Listener if they feel the need.

5.21 At the time of inspection 73% of staff were competent in ACT2Care.


5.22 Relationships between staff and YOs are generally good and YOs reported being comfortable approaching staff. However, there was little evidence of staff leaving their offices and interacting with the YOs, and there are no staff who have sole responsibility for the YOs. The training available to staff working with the YOs is not consistent and not accredited.

Family Contact

5.23 A major disadvantage for young offenders in Bruce House is the distance that family members have to travel to visit. There are also no separate visit sessions for young offenders. They receive the same entitlement and take their visits alongside convicted adult prisoners.

5.24 The visits room is clean, tidy and compact. There are machines where families can buy cold drinks and sweets. No toys are available for children.

5.25 Information for families is readily available as well as information on Phoenix Family Awareness Sessions.

5.26 Three full-time Family Contact Development Officers are available to offer support. Young offenders can access and book sessions with their children in the "Little Cherubs Room" in the Family Centre. To do this they have to meet the same criteria as adult prisoners.


5.27 The learning centre activities are managed locally by the learning centre manager in the prison and accredited by Carnegie College who have the contract for delivering education services. Provision is available to all YOs. Within the learning centre YOs and adults mix readily: there is no separate education provision for YOs.

5.28 There is a wide range of formal and informal learning opportunities available including computing; communication; literacy; card making; numeracy; creative writing; magazine group; vocational training support; music; money matters; and next steps courses.

5.29 During induction YOs participate in First Aid; Food Hygiene; Health and Safety and Manual lifting courses. Other opportunities are run on demand and include food hygiene, and creative writing for families. YOs can access open learning if desired but there were none doing so. Prior to September 2008 there had been very few classes cancelled due to staff absence. Young offenders currently engage well with formal education and learning courses.

5.30 A newly refurbished, relocated and recently opened library provides a first class and welcoming environment where YOs are encouraged in their reading. Two learner 'champions' provide peer support in literacy for learners and help for those with additional support needs. It is an excellent library facility which includes access to desktop computers and an informal reading and study area. Despite only being open for three weeks, over 60 prisoners had already joined the library - many of them were YOs. However, there is no evening or weekend access to this excellent facility.

5.31 Almost all prisoners benefit from the induction course which highlights opportunities within LSE. All prisoners who engage with education undergo an assessment to identify their educational needs using the standardised alerting tool. This allows staff to have some information on the skill levels and abilities of all YOs.

5.32 Staff take account of the learner's individual characteristics when planning learning experiences. Their input to learning activities is focused appropriately on the learner's needs.

5.33 Staff successfully attempt to create learning contexts which reflect the interests of YOs. Experiences are adapted according to individual need. All YOs engaging with education were developing at least one core skill from communication, literacy, numeracy and ICT. The YOs who were actively engaged in training programmes valued their learning experience and considered the programme to be beneficial to their future employment and were making good progress in a range of curriculum areas.

5.34 There are very good relationships between prisoners and education staff. In almost all cases this contributes effectively to a positive learning climate. There is a flexible approach adopted by staff to meeting the learning needs of individual prisoners.

5.35 There are four full-time staff and another three staff who work part-time for three or four days each week and another four staff who deliver courses on one or two days each week. Staffing is enhanced through the provision of a reader in residence who has encouraged offenders self expression and has overall a positive impact on offenders reading skills and habits.

5.36 Facilities on site are limited to two classrooms although they are both of a good size. Overall capacity is severely limited - of particular concern is a lack of a dedicated art room and a suitable space to deliver cookery classes which are in demand by YOs.

5.37 Arrangements for systematically evaluating and improving the quality of the prisoner experience across learning, skills and employability have been developed.

Work Opportunities

5.38 When young offenders are at work they mix with adult prisoners (unless they are hall cleaners). Work related qualifications are not well developed. The hairdressing work party offers the best opportunity for a qualification but this is more suited to YOs serving longer sentences.

5.39 All hall cleaners should receive some training but according to YO cleaners, this does not always happen. Staff in the laundry are able to offer a qualification but have been unable to do so due to a need to meet the demands of the increased throughput of laundry items.

5.40 A certificated course is available in the kitchen and the learning centre delivers a food safety course. The gardens and the craft workshop do not offer work place qualifications.

5.41 A number of YOs were not at work due either to not having a job or because they work in the packing plant which had been closed for a number of weeks prior to the inspection.

Other Out of Cell Activities

5.42 Young offenders have long periods of inactivity either locked in their cells or within their individual units. They have access to a TV/lounge/general eating area in each unit which is drab and unkempt.

5.43 Unlike male young offenders they do not have a timetable of in-house regime activity other than to attend work (and not everyone has a job) or education. They are able to access one-off initiatives for example jewellery making and art link where, alongside adult prisoners, they participate in dance projects and radio plays.

5.44 The gymnasium consists of one gym room with cardiovascular exercise machines. Step classes, boxercise, circuit, team and racket sports are available. There are no external facilities.

5.45 Young offenders can access 10 sessions of physical education each week. None of these sessions are young offender specific and the sessions are not well attended. With one officer on each shift only 12 prisoners can access the gym at any given time: this is not ideal when all young offender sessions are shared with others. Young offenders were not positive about mixing with adult prisoners during these sessions as they felt the adults "looked down on them" because they were noisy and boisterous.

5.46 The recreational facilities in the evening are extremely limited. There is one telephone shared by the upper and lower sections where the YOs are located. Except to gain access to the telephone YOs are not allowed to go to another section.

5.47 There is no TV in one of the communal rooms. Some table top games are available but no electronic games.

5.48 The recreation facilities are uninspiring and boring. During the recreation period cell association is not permitted.

5.49 One of the worst aspects of the early evening regime is the period of lock up for staff meal breaks. During this period, which is approximately one hour, YOs are locked in their rooms with no access to toilet facilities because the policy is that the "Night San" mode is not activated. Many YOs said that they are forced to use their sinks. This is unacceptable. During the recreation which follows the patrol period some YOs are also locked up either because they have been deprived recreation following a breach of discipline, or they are not on the level of Incentives and Earned Privileges scheme which allows access to that recreation session. Again, it is difficult for a YO to access the toilet. To access the toilet during this time the YO must activate a speaker in their room and inform a member of Electronic Control Room ( ECR) staff that they wish to use the toilet. ECR staff then need to contact the unit staff and pass on the request. This can take a significant length of time. For those YOs who do not speak English, and there were two during the inspection, it is even more challenging to access to the toilet. To make things even worse, half toilet doors are only chest high with a significant gap at the foot. It is not easy to see when the toilet is being used with the consequence that staff can inadvertently or deliberately see into the toilet area. It is recommended that the arrangements for access to the toilet during the evening are improved immediately and that arrangements for maintaining dignity are introduced.

Health Services

5.50 Young offenders attend the health centre for all appointments. They have access to the same level of healthcare provision as adults in the establishment, including female specific care such as well women, a health visitor and a midwife. They have regular access to the doctor, nurse led services, the addictions nurse, optician, dentist and psychiatrist. Waiting lists are evident for some services, particularly the dentist; but also the optician and mental health services where a YO can wait for up to a month. Young offenders have access to a nurse every day and can see the doctor within one week.

5.51 Some YOs keep their medication in their possession. Others attend the health centre where they are given this under supervision. This ensures that young offenders have access to the full range of clinical intervention where appropriate.

5.52 Healthcare staff do not have a direct input to induction, and no information is available which advertises services.


5.53 There is a long waiting list for one-to-one addictions nurse support, particularly for the most vulnerable young offenders. Hardly any harm reduction work is being undertaken, (such as needle replacement and harm reduction protocol), as the addictions nurse's time is taken up with the administrative process attached to clinical throughcare.

5.54 Alcoholics Anonymous attend the prison regularly but no specific session is delivered for young offenders. Young offender attendance is low.

5.55 Two thirds of YOs have been assessed by the Enhanced Addictions Casework Service ( EACS), and 60% are receiving one-to-one support in terms of drugs and alcohol. The caseworkers and addictions nurse have also delivered smoking cessation groups which have included young offenders. The team actively promotes addictions throughcare with referrals being made to the National Throughcare Addictions Service. Good links have been made with YO specific services in the community.

5.56 The EACS team provides an input to the national induction programme and meets all young offenders on admission and prior to release. Self referral forms are readily available in both units as well as information on how to access the team. The EACS provider delivers harm reduction awareness to all YOs, and literature is young offender specific. Family awareness and information on EACS is well advertised in the visits area.

5.57 The prison daily occurrence log is also used as a basis of addictions referral or to review the level of addictions support that an individual may require.

Partner Organisations

5.58 Cornton Vale has an impressive range of partner organisations to support the women in prison and in the community. The YOs are able to access any of these organisations which best fit their needs.

Preparation for Release

5.59 A range of interventions to address offending behaviour is delivered within the main prison. Young offenders can access these if they meet the criteria. They attend the sessions alongside adult prisoners. Although not young offender specific a number of these programmes are based on individualised need. Interventions include:

  • Female Offence Specific Course
  • Constructs
  • Pilot Substance Related Offender Behaviour Programme
  • Parenting
  • Alcohol Awareness
  • Drug Action for Change
  • Anxiety and Sleep
  • Connections

5.60 No data was available as to how many young offenders have undertaken these programmes.

5.61 Although there are no YO specific pre-release programmes there is a structured approach to pre-release based on individual need.

5.62 Young offenders serving between four months and four years are invited to the Links Centre four weeks prior to release. There is a very comprehensive pre-release structured interview designed to identify outstanding pre-release needs.

5.63 Links Centre staff conduct one-to-one interviews and refer outstanding needs to community partners. Addiction services deliver a harm reduction programme and a wide range of information leaflets are available.

5.64 Young offenders with serious mental health problems on release will have their pre-release package co-ordinated by the Multi-Disciplinary Mental Health Team.

5.65 The Cornton Vale approach to pre-release is effective and ensures that transition needs are highlighted and a care plan offered.


  • Young offenders are generally treated well by staff although there are no staff who have sole responsibility for the YOs.
  • Young offenders mix with adult prisoners in the accommodation areas. They also mix with adult prisoners during visits, in education, at work, and during offending behaviour programmes.
  • The accommodation is very poor.
  • It is recommended that the arrangements for access to the toilet during the evening are improved immediately and that arrangements for maintaining dignity are introduced.
  • The arrangements for food are very poor.
  • The induction programme is well structured but not YO specific.
  • The identification of women at risk is a high priority but women classed as high risk should never be located in the "back cells" in Ross House.
  • Arrangements for maintaining family contact are reasonable, although some families have to travel significant distances to visit the young offenders.
  • There is a wide range of learning opportunities available, and all young offenders have access to education.
  • There is no timetabled regime activity and there is very little for the young offenders to do. The recreation facilities are extremely limited.
  • Young offenders have the same access to healthcare provision as adults in the prison.
  • A wide range of partner organisations support the young offenders in prison and in the community.
  • The prison's approach to pre-release is effective.
  • It is recommended that young female offenders have a unit specifically suited to their needs, and that they do not routinely mix with adult prisoners.


Sources of Evidence

Written material and statistics received from the prison prior to inspection

Prisons' self-assessments

Governors' briefings

SPS Prisoner Survey

Prison Records

Prison background material

Discussions with young offenders

Discussions with young offenders' families

Focus groups with young offenders

Interviews with young offenders

Interviews with prison staff



Inspection Team

Andrew R C McLellan - HM Chief Inspector

John T McCaig - Deputy Chief Inspector

Karen Norrie - Inspector

Donnie MacLeod - Education Adviser

Jim Rooney - Education Adviser