Polmont offenders must get out of bed

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Staff at Polmont Young Offenders Institution have a lot of work do to turn sleepy-headed youngsters into fit and proper people ready to re-enter society.

That’s the view of Brigadier Hugh Monro, HM Chief Inspector of Prisons, who returned to the facility this week to unveil the findings of the inspection he carried out last October.

He said: “There were offenders who were still in their cells in their beds. That’s unacceptable.

“There are young offenders who are fully engaged in the process here, but the issue is how you get through to those who are not interested.

“How do you get them out of their beds and into the education and work opportunities available to them here?”

The chief inspector said the new chief executive governor at the YOI had taken on board the findings of the report and were now working on improving the regime at Polmont.

He added: “The report is not a criticism of staff here – it is a criticism of a weakness in the system which has been going on far too long.

“The chief executive and the governor both understand there is a need for a change. The report shows Polmont has many advantages as an establishment that will ensure it improves and goes from strength to strength.”

The Scottish Prison Service stated this week it had embraced the need for change at the YOI.

A spokesman said: “We welcome the report and are grateful to Brigadier Monro for his thorough and thoughtful work. He and his team have produced, in a very clear way, a report in which he has crystallised his key concerns.

“We agree more needs to be done to fully engage offenders in custody in order to maximise their potential for positive change.

“One of the main objectives of the SPS is to provide targeted and specialised services for young people so they can continue to grow in a healthy way and to encourage them to reach their full potential as young citizens.

“More recently SPS has been emphasising the importance of young offenders being encouraged and supported to develop life skills, improve education and learning and particularly to develop skills that will improve their employment prospects.”

Brigadier Monro said: “Before the inspection I had taken a particular interest in the way that young offenders are rehabilitated so they have the best opportunities to succeed on release.

“Blair House, the most modern residential hall at Polmont, which was set up for the 16 to 18-year-olds, is key to this. There are many good examples of positive work going on to change the way young men behave and to make positive choices.

“But the lack of continuity of leadership at Blair House since 2010 is disappointing given the importance of the unit and the level of resources provided.

“There are some very good members of staff here who are keen to move forward. What is required is management stability.’’ to allow them to do this.”