WRONG Review of Peterhead Prison Was Fundamentally Flawed from Start WRONG It Failed to Use the Correct Figures or Ask the Relevant Questions WRONG the Evidence of the Prisons Chief Was Incomplete and Inaccurate WRONG Nothing to Back Up Claims That Private Jails Would Save Millions; DON'T CELL OUT PETERHEAD
Byline: DAVE KING
THE decision to close Peterhead Prison was yesterday slated as flawed from the start.
A damning report backed the Daily Record's campaign to keep the world-renowned jail open.
It also slammed plans by the Scottish Executive to build three new private prisons.
The report, by a cross-party committee of MSPs, blasted the planned shake-up of Scottish jails and said the Executive should go back to the drawing board.
It said the review, championed by Justice Minister Jim Wallace, was fundamentally flawed from the start.
The wrong questions had been asked, wrong figures were used and the wrong conclusions had been reached.
The Justice 1 Committee dismissed Executive claims that the private prisons plan would save pounds 700million.
And they were particularly scathing about Scottish Prison Service Chief Executive Tony Cameron.
They sparked calls for his resignation by branding his evidence "extraordinary, unconvincing" and "astonishing".
Committee convener Christine Grahame said: "Our investigation found that the Executive's review was based on inadequate financial and performance information, making accurate comparisons between private and public provision almost impossible.
"We believe they need to look again at the evidence before making any significant changes to the way in which prisons are run in Scotland."
The Record revealed last month that, following a public outcry, the Executive were planning a U-turn on their plans to close Peterhead in Aberdeenshire, which houses a pioneering treatment centre for sex offenders.
Last night, Wallace still wouldn't come out and admit the jail would be kept open. But he did agree to have "further dialogue" about the plans.
The Justice 1 Committee had a long list of complaints about the Executive's plans.
They found no evidence to back claims that massive savings would be made through building private jails.
The MSPs also said the review should have looked into the option of having privately built prisons run by the state.
The report said: "The committee is concerned that the estates review has not adequately explored the option of privately built, publicly operated prisons or not-for-profit trusts."
And there was criticism that the Executive had made their decision to build three new jails "in a vacuum".
They had not taken account of future changes in sentencing policy or how their push towards alternatives to custody would affect the situation.
Convener Grahame added: "If one is looking at the prospect for the prisons estate for the next 25 years, it would seem basic to look at prison reform and to look at reducing prison numbers through penal reform and alternatives to custody."
There was more woe for Wallace over his plans to limit the numbers at Barlinnie in Glasgow to 530, with the committee worried that it may lead to overcrowding.
Lib Dem MSP Donald Gorrie said the review had been based on wrong assumptions. …