HMIP Peterhead Inspection: 21 - 22 January 2004

Prison - Return Visit Inspection Report

Executive Summary




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1.1 The visit to Peterhead 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 prison.

1.2 The Inspection Team comprised:

Andrew McLellan


Rod MacCowan


David McAllister


David Abernethy


February 2004




2.1 In May 2003 a report on a full inspection of Peterhead was published. That report identified serious concerns. Two in particular were not only serious but also urgent. One was about the conditions in which prisoners were living; and the other was about the small amount of preparation for release of long-term sex offenders. One year later this report indicates that these concerns are as serious and urgent as ever, although one important improvement in living conditions has been made.

2.2 The improvement is the installation of electric power in cells (EPIC). Work was progressing well at the time of the inspection; and the opportunity to use electrical items in cells will make a real difference to the lives of prisoners. Peterhead was the last prison in Scotland to have no electric power in any cells in use; although there still remain some parts of some prisons without it.

2.3 The prison was clean and tidy, but the living conditions for prisoners are still very bad. Porta-potties provide the only means of sanitation in cells where prisoners may be locked up for fifteen hours at a time at weekends. The worst conditions are where small cells are shared by two men: they have to eat and sleep and live in a cell with two porta-potties (or sometimes only one). There is no access for running water for hand-washing when prisoners are locked up. Prisoners have little or no say in the choice of the person with whom they share the cell and the porta-potty, and there is no screening for privacy.

2.4 Some of the cells which are used by two prisoners at Peterhead are among the smallest in Scotland. A year ago the sharing of these cells might have been seen as a temporary measure; now it is normal in one hall ('B' hall) for an average of 36 prisoners (the figure was provided by Peterhead and does not include those who are sharing for the purpose of the installation of EPIC) and it has now extended to another hall ('A' hall) as well. The report of 2003 pointed out that all of those who are sharing cells in these conditions are long-term prisoners, many have been diagnosed with chronic health problems, and their average age is much higher than that of prisoners in other prisons. None of this has changed since that report was written. All that has changed is that conditions which were shocking one year ago have become normal.

2.5 This report is no more encouraging on the matter of the preparation for release of Peterhead's prisoners. It might be argued that sex offenders are those who need the most preparation for release. The reality, however, is that long-term sex offenders receive not more but less preparation for release than most other long-term prisoners. This is at least as true today as it was in 2003.

2.6 There are two aspects to preparation for release in Peterhead. One is the STOP programme: the programme for sex offenders which is at the centre of the strategy for seeking to reduce re-offending. The report last year said "most prisoners in Peterhead are not doing the STOP programme and are unlikely to do it". This remains the case.

2.7 The second aspect of preparation for release which is hardly available at all at Peterhead is opportunity for home leave and outside work placement. For other long-term prisoners this opportunity makes it possible for someone who has been in prison for a long time to begin to understand what release will be like and to begin to learn how to deal with the new, and often frightening, possibilities. Because of the lack of these opportunities at Peterhead sex offenders are generally released into the community with much less preparation than other long-term prisoners.

2.8 Uncertainty about the future of the prison (expressed repeatedly by staff), combined with the lack of action on key factors identified in last year's report, particularly the living conditions for prisoners and preparation for release, result in a prison where there is a disappointing lack of progress. Detailed comment on this lack of progress is made throughout the Progress on Recommendations and Points of Note at Chapter 3.


10.1 Electric Power in Cells should be installed as a matter of urgency (paragraph 2.3).

Work is now underway to install Electric Power in Cell (EPIC). 'E' hall, the former Peterhead Unit, and the health centre had access to EPIC at the time of inspection. Work was in progress in 'B' hall at the time of inspection. To allow power to be installed elsewhere prisoners are decanted to 'E' Hall while the work is carried out. The programme is expected to be completed in summer 2004.

10.2 Conditions in 'B' hall and 'B Annex' should be improved immediately through access to night sanitation and single cell accommodation for all prisoners (paragraph 2.10).

No progress has been made allowing prisoners access to the toilet during the night.

10.3 Arrangements for access to proper sanitation should be put in place throughout the prison (paragraph 2.10).

Proper sanitation is in place only in the recently opened enhanced regime in the former Peterhead Unit. However, the toilet is not screened off from the rest of the cell. In all other halls prisoners are still using porta-potties. In some circumstances prisoners are not only sharing a cell but also a porta-potty. Indeed, apart from those prisoners temporarily sharing a cell in 'E' hall to facilitate the installation of EPIC, there are more prisoners sharing than there were during the last inspection. Sharing a cell has now extended to 'A' hall.

10.4 Long-term sex offenders should receive comparable treatment and conditions to other long-term prisoners, and not be disadvantaged by being compliant (paragraph 4.15).

The conditions and treatment of long-term sex offenders in Peterhead are still not comparable to those for other long-term prisoners.

10.5 A combination of prison officers, psychologists and social workers should be used as STOP facilitators (paragraph 6.5).

Due to staff shortages in the Social Work Unit, Social Workers are still not facilitating the STOP programme.

10.6 Accreditation of the adapted and extended STOP programmes should be sought immediately (paragraph 6.6).

The process of Accreditation lies with SPS HQ. Accreditation still not achieved.

10.7 An assessment of the long term outcomes for prisoners who have been through STOP 2000 should be undertaken (paragraph 6.7).

Not achieved.

10.8 Peterhead should run sufficient programmes to meet the identified needs of its population (paragraph 6.11).

Not achieved. The target for 2003-04 for completion of Core STOP 2000 was 24. There have been 14 Core completions during the year to date. This compares to 16 Core completions in 2002-03 (against a target of 24) as reported in the last full inspection report 1. No Adapted or Extended STOP programmes were run. The local targets for other programmes were met or exceeded.

10.9 The proposed gate/visits complex should be progressed as a matter of urgency (paragraph 7.17).

SPS HQ decision not to proceed.


11.1 Access to telephones in 'B' Hall should be improved (paragraph 2.9).

Not achieved. However, a new telephone system was installed throughout the prison just before this inspection. The system has caused some discontent among prisoners, but it is too soon to make an assessment of the telephone system. This issue dominated discussions with prisoners both in groups and with individuals.

11.2 Greater emphasis needs to be placed on Control and Restraint training (paragraph 3.3).

Targets for phase 1 were not being met. Targets for phases 2 and 3 were being met. The prison also needs to improve the take up of self defence training by non-operational staff.

11.3 Due to the absence of sufficient qualified assessors, SVQ training for staff had fallen behind the scheduled programme. That should be addressed (paragraph 3.17).

Some issues still remain on the scoring of portfolios due to the commitments of the verifiers in the Scottish Prison Service College.

11.4 The target for staff undertaking ACT training had not been met. That should be addressed (paragraph 3.18).

The target is still not being met.

11.5 Assessments during induction should be better monitored and recorded (paragraph 4.2).

This has been addressed through the introduction of a new system of record keeping.

11.6 Written material supporting induction should be kept up to date and the quality improved (paragraph 4.2).

The Induction Programme has been revised and has addressed this.

11.7 The target for personal officer/prisoner contacts being recorded at least monthly should be adhered to (paragraph 4.3).

The confusion which existed due to the Sentence Management and the previous Sentence Planning Scheme operating at the same time has been resolved. All prisoners at Peterhead are now managed through the structure of SPS Sentence Management Scheme although some decline to participate in the Scheme. The target for those participating was being met.

11.8 The timescales for completion of all elements of the SPS sentence management procedures should be adhered to (paragraph 4.8).

This is still not being achieved. Between five and eight of the 11 elements of Sentence Management do not meet the SPS timescale each month. In the first nine months of reporting year 2003-04 completions were as follows:-

Initial RNA

Repeat RNA

Action Plan

Repeat Action Plan

Expected to be completed










**Nine admissions required to have Initial Risk Needs Assessment done in addition to the 64 planned.

11.9 Plans to develop a "top end" for sex offenders in Peterhead Prison should be re-examined in order to provide parity with other long-term prisoners (paragraph 4.13).

The former Peterhead Unit has been opened for prisoners from the previously "enhanced" regime in 'E' hall. It does not however, offer a "top end" regime comparable to Chrisswell Hall, Pentland Hall or Friarton Hall.

Prisoners in Peterhead are still disadvantaged in respect of progression from the prison. Transfers to top ends very rarely occur (four in the calendar year 2003 compared to 115 from Shotts). There is no Special Escorted Leave or work placement scheme and preparation for release is very limited. Very few prisoners are allowed pre release home leave (six in 2003).

11.10 An alarm should be fitted in the treatment room (paragraph 5.7).


11.11 An alarm should be fitted in the dental suite (paragraph 5.7).


11.12 The internal sanitation in the health centre waiting room should be covered when the room is being used (paragraph 5.8).


11.13 A bed which can be raised and lowered should be purchased for the health centre (paragraph 5.9).


11.14 A clinical computer system should be introduced to the health centre (paragraph 5.14).

The Health Centre has acquired a computer as part of the SPS G-Pass system. The network has not been rolled out but the computer is being used as a local resource.

11.15 The waiting times for consultation with the medical officer should be monitored (paragraph 5.17).

All references to prisoners contact with healthcare staff are now annotated on their case notes so a track can be kept of waiting times.

11.16 The nursing triage should be monitored to ensure that prisoners do not feel that access to the medical officer is being restricted (paragraph 5.18).

Prisoners still perceive that nursing staff control access to the doctor. To help nursing staff to manage this more effectively, training is planned to start in March 2004.

11.17 A Mental Health Team should be established (paragraph 5.19).


11.18 The late or non-arrival of some medication should be addressed as a matter of urgency (paragraph 5.24).

There are still occasional problems with the pharmacy service.

11.19 The recent decision not to allow nurses to give prisoners over-the-counter medication should be re-examined (paragraph 5.27).

Over-the-counter issuing of some medication is controlled by SPS policy. This does not allow the previous practice to be re-instated.

11.20 Alternatives to publicly handing out medication in the halls should be examined (paragraph 5.27).

Specific areas in each hall have been identified to issue medication. These now provide more privacy and better security.

11.21 There is a need to develop more active services in identifying the medical needs of the prisoner population (paragraph 5.38).

There are now more and better nurse led clinics in HIV/Aids, Diabetes, Asthma and Smoking Cessation. The prison plans to have Health Theme Weeks twice a year, which will be managed by the Health Care team in conjunction with PE staff. There are also Well Man Clinics for elderly prisoners.

11.22 The needs of prisoners with learning difficulties should be addressed (paragraph 5.39).

The Education Unit has introduced new literacy classes and occasionally carries out one-to-one work. The delivery of the Adapted STOP programme should also help, although this had not run during 2003-04.

11.23 Prisoners should be given the opportunity to address their offending behaviour in a timely fashion (paragraph 6.10).

This is still an issue. Twenty one prisoners with a Parole Qualifying Date before 22 January 2004 had not completed STOP 2000. There are reasons for ten of these (five had started but not completed, one is currently doing the programme, three have been offered a place but refused, and one was unable to participate due to medical reasons).

11.24 The willingness of 'B' hall prisoners to engage in regime activities other than STOP, and the progress they have made, must be recognised (paragraph 6.13).

The introduction of a Preparation for Release Log means that the participation of 'B' hall prisoners in activities other than STOP is now formally recognised. In general, prisoners in 'B' hall have decided not to take part in the STOP programme, and show more negative attitudes toward programmes in the Prisoner Survey. However, nearly two out of three prisoners in 'B' hall did agree with the statement in the Prison Survey "Management and staff in this prison support my efforts to change". Figures show that of the total of 306 prisoners in the prison during inspection, 96 who had not been involved in STOP had undertaken at least one other programme (41 had participated in two or more).

11.25 The problem over the accreditation of the practical elements of SVQ courses in Amenity Horticulture and Carpentry/Joinery should be resolved (paragraph 7.6).

Not resolved.

11.26 Arrangements concerning the present education contract should be resolved (paragraph 7.6).

Resolved. The contract for 2002-03 was extended into 2003-04. However, the issue is likely to arise again when negotiations start for 2004-05.

11.27 Consideration should be given to developing the Library into a multi-media resource centre (paragraph 7.9).

Decision taken not to proceed.

11.28 More meaningful work opportunities should be provided within the prison (paragraph 7.14).

Very little has changed since the last visit. There is still some confusion surrounding the VT parties because of the SQA position on "full time employment". It is planned to introduce an Industrial Cleaning Party which will allow prisoners to attain the BICS certificate. On a positive note, a Waste Management Party started work in 2003. This small but expanding group of prisoners deals with some of the environmental management issues within the prison. The prisoners involved in managing the project in conjunction with staff are using this to help them work towards an HNC in Business Studies.

11.29 More work opportunities should be created for elderly prisoners who wished to work (paragraph 7.15).

There has been no change in the provision of work opportunities for elderly prisoners. However, plans are being made to place more emphasis on recreation and socialising, with opportunities for some work.

11.30 The gymnasium should be upgraded (paragraph 7.22).

Not achieved although the PE staff now have a room converted to use for massage therapy.

11.31 The Social Work Unit should examine ways of ensuring that all prisoners are seen as a matter of routine during their first three days (paragraph 7.27).

Attempts are made to ensure that all prisoners are seen.

11.32 Information relating to the implementation of ACT should be routinely and quickly relayed to the Social Work Unit (paragraph 7.29).

The manager of the area in which the prisoner is located should contact all relevant parties, including the Social Work Unit, when an ACT case conference is required.

11.33 Until proper access to sanitation is provided, safe systems of work for the emptying of porta-potties and the use of their chemicals should be introduced and instructions readily available in every cell (paragraph 7.41).

Full and clear instructions are now issued to every prisoner on admission. Since prisoners regularly lose such documents, there is a case for displaying them permanently in each cell.

11.34 The sources of discontent with the bag and tag canteen system should be discovered and tackled (paragraph 8.7).

Prisoners are still frustrated with the new system, particularly the selection of goods available.

11.35 Consideration should be given to the installation of an alarm in the stores area (paragraph 8.9).

This matter has been resolved by a change in work practice and the installation of a stand alone alarm.


4.1 The installation of electric power in cells was announced on the day of publication of the HMCIP Report on the full inspection of 2003. This report recognises how welcome was that announcement: welcome to prisoners and to prison staff. It marks a significant improvement in the living conditions of prisoners.

4.2 A clear system of management of this large project has been introduced. Prisoners from 'E' hall have been moved into the former "Peterhead Unit"; and each hall, floor by floor, transfers its prisoners into 'E' hall so that power may be installed into each hall. This is only possible by "doubling up" in the cells in 'E' hall. This is, however, a temporary measure in cells which are rather larger than those in the rest of the prison.

4.3 This system of emptying of the halls floor by floor has only been possible because of the other significant new development which has taken place in Peterhead since the time of the last report. The former Unit has been opened on a temporary basis. It contains 10 prisoners. At present these are prisoners from 'E' hall: they are therefore those who have moved through the progression system. The conditions in which they live are very good. Every prisoner has a single cell, bright and large. Inside the cell there is a toilet. However, the toilet is not screened off from the rest of the cell. There is shared living, dining and recreation accommodation. This shared accommodation is attractive and of a high standard; and is recognised as such by those prisoners who live there.

4.4 Staff and prisoners spoke of the relaxed and positive relationships which exist in the Unit; it was easy to observe these good relationships. Within the prison in general there had been four prisoner-on-staff assaults (one of which was classified as a KPI), and five prisoner- on-prisoner assaults (one of which was classified as a KPI). The KPI assaults are the first such assaults for a number of years.

4.5 One change over the last year is the dramatic growth in the number of complaints raised under the Complaints Procedure:










Complaints made under the Complaints Procedure System in 2003.










4.6 Two features of this are:

  • The majority of the complaints raised are from 'B' hall and 'B' hall annexe.
  • A significant number of complaints are from a small number of prisoners.

4.7 If prisoners wish to complain about conditions or treatment, it is encouraging to see them use the Complaints Procedure. However, the sheer volume of complaints raised inevitably slows down the response time and may divert significant staff from other work equally important to prisoners. It also means that important individual issues may be submerged in the mass of complaints. Both of these may be disadvantageous to individual prisoners. Most complaints originate from the areas where there is sharing of cells.


1 There were also 6 completions of Adapted Stop and 5 completions of Extended STOP in 2002-03.