Cornton Vale Prison (Hansard, 16 January 1997)
HC Deb 16 January 1997 vol 288 cc306-8W
Mr. Gallie

To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what steps are being taken to prevent further suicides at Cornton Vale prison; what is being done to deal with the drug problems among the prisoners there; and if he will make a statement. [11854]

Mr. Michael Forysth

The care of prisoners and the prevention of suicide in prisoners are operational matters for the chief executive of the Scottish Prison Service, and I have had full discussions with him about the recent cluster of suicides at Cornton Vale.

The chief executive shares my concern at the number of suicides at the prison and joins me in offering condolences to the families of those who have died. I have reviewed with the chief executive the steps being taken to address the problem of suicide at the prison, in the light in particular of the recent recommendations from Her Majesty's chief inspector of prisons. The vast majority of those recommendations are already being implemented.

As indicated in my response to the chief inspector when his report was published last year, the governor had already put in place new arrangements for the induction of remand prisoners, for extra time out of cell, and for increased access to education, physical training and other regime opportunities. A number of outside agencies are also now working in the prison, including the Samaritans, Rape Crisis, Cruse and Women's Aid, and a listeners scheme has been put in place. All remand prisoners now share a cell, to encourage mutual support.

In addition to the extra staffing provided last year, more money is being provided to address the drug-related problems experienced by a very large proportion of the prisoner population. A further addictions worker post has been approved, together with additional psychiatric sessions; and the increased resources I have provided to the Scottish Prison Service for the forthcoming financial year will enable the governor to fund five additional posts to assist with drug reduction work and to expand the programme already in operation. The purpose of these changes is to ensure that all prisoners at Cornton Vale who have been identified as having a drug problem have the opportunity to address their addiction either on an individual basis or through organised group work as appropriate.

If work on drug reduction undertaken in the prison is to be effective, it is important that there is adequate throughcare on release, and my officials are discussing with local authorities and voluntary agencies what steps may be taken to ensure that this is available. In particular, discussions are in hand with the City of Glasgow council on the provision of further drug rehabilitation facilities for Glasgow and what was before local government reorganisation the wider Strathclyde area.

I have offered to provide through the 100 per cent. funding mechanism two additional posts to the council related to the delivery of addiction programmes. One post would be aimed at providing links between drug misusers, particularly those released from custody, and community-based programmes. The other post would be located in the stipendiary/sheriff court with a view to identifying and making arrangements for those for whom a non-custodial disposal might be appropriate. I also propose to extend bail information and supervision services to the stipendiary court in Glasgow.

I have also offered £50,000 to convert properties operated by the Church of Scotland and Sacro for use as bail accommodation, and my officials are discussing with the City of Glasgow council financial support for the addition to existing provision of a further 15 bail bed spaces.

An independent researcher is currently undertaking a six-month study to obtain detailed information on the extent and type of drug and alcohol misuse among women prisoners at Cornton Vale, both before and after conviction, and this will provide information in targeting resources for the future.