The Prisons of Fear; Violence against Officers Spirals out of Control as Soft-Touch Policy Fails to Reduce Jail Population

Daily Mail (London), May 5, 2009 | Go to article overview

The Prisons of Fear; Violence against Officers Spirals out of Control as Soft-Touch Policy Fails to Reduce Jail Population


Byline: Alan Roden Scottish Political Reporter

awash with violence, with hundreds THE number of prison officers being assaulted by inmates in Scotland's overcrowded jails is on course to hit record levels.

Figures showing staff are struggling to control the problem have sparked urgent demands for a 'zero tolerance' approach to prison violence.

So far this year, attacks have been reported at a rate of more than one every two days - which, if sustained, would see the annual total reach its highest level since records began in 2001.

Disturbingly, Scotland's only all-female prison, Cornton Vale near Stirling, is now the most dangerous jail for officers - with a record number of 36 attacks last year.

And already this year, 20 assaults on staff at the prison have been reported.

The new figures published by the Liberal Democrats reveal that Scotland's jails are awash with violence, with hundreds of inmates also being assaulted by fellow prisoners.

Last night, the Prison Officers' Association (POA) blamed overcrowding for the crisis.

Despite a raft of soft-touch measures aimed at keeping criminals out of jail, the number of inmates in Scottish prisons reached 8,185 last month - beating last September's record of 8,137.

POA assistant secretary for Scotland Derek Turner said: 'These figures come as no surprise. Overcrowding has been a key issue for us, despite the recent opening of a new prison at Addiewell, West Lothian.

'Cornton Vale is one of the most overcrowded, and with nowhere else for female prisoners to go, that leads to tension. The public seems to think that assault is part of the job [of a prison officer].

'We don't believe that, and we want Mr Turner said that there were to see a zero tolerance approach - like in the National Health Service.

There should be more prosecutions, and more visits from police and procurators fiscal to see what we've got to cope with.'

Mr Turner said that there were 'very few' prosecutions after an attack on prison staff, often because the culprit was already behind bars and it would make no difference to their sentence.

By April 21 this year, a total of 63 assaults on officials at Scots jails had already been recorded. …

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