Prison bosses are being urged to consider a new-build jail to replace outdated facilities at HMP Castle Huntly.
An inspection of the country’s only open prison has prompted calls for further investment.
The jail, on the edge of Dundee, is the last stop for offenders before they’re released and helps prepare them for a return to society.
It’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic was recently assessed by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons for Scotland (HMIPS).
And the largely positive report, published Tuesday, suggests the Scottish Prison Service (SPS) should look at replacing the jail with a whole new facility on another site.
‘Significant cost savings’
The study said that “substantial” modernisation and improvement was “essential,” and that urgent refurbishment of holding cells was required.
A full rebuild would ensure “modern single cell accommodation with in-cell toilet and showers for all residents”.
The report states: “To remain at the forefront of modern penology, we would like the SPS to seriously consider investment in the future of HMP Castle Huntly, either recognising the strong existing community relationships through substantial modernisation and refurbishment of the accommodation blocks, with development of single cell accommodation for the whole population, or investment in an alternative site.”
The report goes on: “The SPS are required to maintain a listed building at HMP Castle Huntly, but the accommodation areas are outdated and do not represent a pre-release experience akin to living in the community.
“The SPS should consider whether an alternative purpose-built establishment might be more appropriate and provide significant cost savings in the longer term.”
The inspectorate has also questioned the size and number of accessible cells for prisoners with additional needs.
Historic Castle Huntly was built in the first half of the 15th Century and was converted into a borstal in 1947, and then a young offender’s institution.
A Scottish Prison Service spokeswoman said: “There are currently no plans to redevelop HMP Castle Huntly.”
At the time of the visit in February 2021, Castle Huntly was one of the last prison establishments in Scotland able to record zero positive Covid-19 cases among its population.
Inspectors praised staff and inmates for the way they responded to the last minute cancellation of Christmas home leave.
And the jail was commended for continuing to provide support services – for issues such as substance misuse and mental health – throughout the pandemic.
Management has been encouraged to consider the reintroduction of communal dining and provide access to microwaves during the evenings.
Inspectors have also called for an immediate end to restrictions on the number of children allowed during a visit.
The jail has also been urged to work with Fife Council to “maximise opportunities” for inmates.