Inmates need 'meaningful activities' says prisons inspector

Prison in work shed at HMP Shotts
Image caption Brig Monro wants to see prisoners engaged in purposeful activities as part of their rehabilitation

More needs to be done to prepare prisoners for life when they are released, according to HM Chief Inspector of Prisons for Scotland.

In his final annual report, Brigadier Hugh Monro suggested inmates needed to have more meaningful activities.

He said much had improved in prison buildings in recent years but rehabilitation was still a major issue.

Brig Monro called for better organisation and resources to reduce the chances of reoffending.

In his annual report for 2012/2013 the chief inspector highlighted ongoing issues related to providing activities. He reiterated calls for a Scottish Prison Service (SPS) review of the way prisoners are rehabilitated.

While he highlighted progress in a number of areas, including improvements in the treatment and conditions for women offenders, Brig Monro said he was "less optimistic" about improvements in purposeful activity.

Poor access to work and education opportunities had been raised in almost every inspection report over the past four years, Brig Monro said.

He said improvements had been made at some prisons, such as Cornton Vale, Glenochil, Kilmarnock, Barlinnie and Dumfries, but it was "dispiriting" to find "a significant proportion of prisoners or young offenders in halls or their cells during the working day".

"As I reported in the report on Polmont, some young offenders are still in their beds in the afternoon," he said.

"Watching day-time television is not, in my view, a substitute for purposeful activity.

"It is merely a recognition that there are insufficient activity places for prisoners and, sadly, poor motivation to encourage prisoners to engage."

Brig Monro added: "I reiterate the point that the quality of activities must also improve, so that work is productive and useful, that vocational training is assessed and provides a useful qualification for employment, and that education is related to prisoners' needs.

Image caption The prisons inspector found young offenders at Polmont still in bed in the afternoon

"I agree with (Holyrood's) justice committee that there needs to be a strategic shift in the way that prisoners are rehabilitated and this will require a review by the SPS.

"The taxpayer expects two things from prison: firstly, loss of liberty as punishment and secondly, rehabilitation to reduce the chances of reoffending.

"The latter needs better organisation and resourcing and a great deal more attention."

Brig Monro will be succeeded by former Lothian and Borders chief constable David Strang, who will take over the post of chief inspector of prisons later this month.

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