Polmont YOI Paws scheme dogged by scandal

Polmont YOI will continue the Paws For Progress scheme
Polmont YOI will continue the Paws For Progress scheme

The future of a scheme to rehabilitate young offenders through dog handling was in doubt after a trainer hooked up with a violent prisoner.

Paws For Progress, introduced three years ago, was said to be having a positive effect at Polmont Young Offenders Institution, giving youngsters the chance to gain qualifications by training the Dogs Trust canines on site at the prison.

However, that was before instructor Justine Turnbull (26), who worked full time on the project at the YOI, developed a relationship with inmate Jamie Hutchison (21), who was serving time for robbing a woman of a £4000 ring at knife point.

The affair came to light when YOI bosses caught her sending some steamy pole dancing photographs to Hutchison, who was quickly moved to another prison.

Miss Turnbull was subsequently sacked from her post and the project.

A Scottish Prison Service spokesperson would not comment on the scandal itself but confirmed this week the Paws For Progress project would be going ahead despite the recent setback.

She said: “Polmont is going through refurbishment work at the moment and the area where Paws for Progress took place is included in this. We let the youngsters involved finish the course first and then started the work.

“When the refurbishment work is complete the Paws For Progress scheme will then continue.”

Paws For Progress had not commented on the matter or revealed the name of Miss Turnbull’s successor as The Falkirk Herald went to press.

The project was set up at the YOI by a group of psychology graduates from the University of Stirling and run at dedicated kennels within the institution’s recreation block.

Partners include the Scottish Prison Service, The Dog’s Trust and the University of Stirling, while funding for the initiative has come from a number of sources including the Big Lottery’s Young Start Fund and the Robertson Trust.