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Frequently Asked Questions

SPS - Frequently Asked Questions

  • Is it possible to obtain uniform patches or badges from the Scottish Prison Service?

    The current Prison Officer uniform does not contain patches or badges, so we regret that it is not possible to obtain such items from the SPS.

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  • What is the difference between an "Escape" and an "Abscond"?

    The definition of Escape is "where a prisoner breaches a perimeter security barrier or evades a secure escort." Everything else would be classed as either an "Abscond" or "Fail to Return". In order to clarify, all of our establishments have secure perimeters with the exception of The Open Estate, i.e. HMP Castle Huntly and the Independent Living Unit at HMP Cornton Vale.

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  • Is it possible for me to be told if a specific individual is held in a Scottish Prison?

    It may be possible to confirm that an individual (i.e. name only) is currently held in a Scottish Prison, but in line with the Data Protection Act, we are unable to give out specific details of the prisoner, i.e. prison number and the prison they are located in. However, if you wish to write to a prisoner (but do not know the name of the prison they are located in), you can do so by sending your letter to the Communications Branch at SPS Headquarters, and we will ensure that the letter is passed on. It is important to remember however, that we cannot guarantee that the prisoner would respond to or acknowledge your letter. This would be for the prisoner to decide.

    SPS Communications Branch
    Room G20
    Headquarters
    Calton House
    5 Redheughs Rigg
    Edinburgh
    EH12 9HW

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  • How many prisons are there in Scotland?

    There are 16 penal establishments in Scotland - ranging in size from HMP Barlinnie in Glasgow with over 1,000 places, to HMP Inverness with 108. In addition there is a National Induction Centre for prisoners beginning longer sentences . A number of the prisons are over 100 years old; HMP Shotts was opened in the 1980's. The newest prison is HMP Low Moss, opened in 2012 . The first private prison, Kilmarnock in Ayrshire, opened in Spring 1999. For more details on individual establishments, click on the prisons button and follow the links.

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  • How many people are there in prison in Scotland?

     Untried Male Adults

    890

     Untried Female Adults

    58

     Untried Male Young Offenders

    128

     Untried Female Young Offenders

    6

     Sentenced Male Adults

    5646

     Sentenced Female Adults

    319

     Sentenced Male Young Offenders

    409

     Sentenced Female Young Offenders

    26

     Recalled Life Prisoners

    81

     Convicted Prisoners Awaiting Sentencing

    231

     Prisoners Awaiting Deportation

     8

     Under 16's

     0

     Civil Prisoners

     0

     All Scotland Total in Custody

    7801

     Home Detention Curfew (HDC)

    353

     Overall Total  (as at 03/05/2013)

    8154 

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  • How much does it cost to run the Scottish Prison Service?

    The budget for the SPS in the year 2012/13 has been set at £325million.

    Please click here to view the SPS Annual Report and Accounts for further information.

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  • How much does it cost to keep someone in prison?

    The average cost per prisoner place in 2011-12 was £32371. Details of the Cost Per Prison Place is published in our Annual Reports and Accounts.

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  • What is the prisoner supervision system?

    The Prisoner Supervision System (PSS), which was introduced on 1st April 2002, is designed to assist the effective management of prisoners and:

  • to provide for public safety;
  • to provide for the operational needs of SPS;
  • to facilitate progression towards release;
  • to be fair and transparent; and
  • to allow the appropriate allocation of resources.

    PSS comprises three key elements:

    1. THE ASSESSMENT RULE

    Each prisoner will be assigned to one of three Supervision Levels:

    High Supervision: an individual, for whom all activities and movements require to be authorised, supervised and monitored by prison staff.

    Medium Supervision: an individual for whom activities and movements are subject to locally specified limited supervision and restrictions.

    Low Supervision: an individual for whom activities and movements, specified locally, are subject to minimum supervision and restrictions [and could include licence conditions and unsupervised activities in the community].

    Assessment Criteria

    • Within 12 months of commencing a sentence of 4 years or over for serious violence (including murder and sexual offences) or drug related offences?
    • Previous history of serious violent offending within past 3 years?
    • Means and willingness to escape now or on admission have a history of such behaviour?
    • Means and willingness to organise serious indiscipline, (including drug dealing)?
    • Previous involvement in violence or fear-inducing behaviour (in prison) within the last year?
    • Current substance abuse?
    • Significant psychiatric / psychological history within the past year?
    • Serious outstanding charges?
    • Impulsive behaviour now or in the past year?
    • Indication of any vulnerability in present location?
    • The Supervision Level allocated is determined by assessment of the individual's circumstances against ten criteria.

    2. THE MANAGEMENT RULE

    Long Term Prisoners
    Defines the minimum period of their sentence that each prisoner must serve in a secure establishment before having supervised or unsupervised access to the community or commencing a preparation for release programme. In the case of determinate sentence prisoners they will be eligible to be considered for national 'top-end' when they are within 2 years of their Parole Qualifying Date (PQD). Life sentence prisoners must have no more than 3 years to serve before the expiry of the 'punishment part' of their sentence to be eligible to be considered for inclusion in the Special Escorted Leave Scheme (SEL) from 'top-ends'.

    Short Term Prisoners
    The sentence management procedures do not, at present, apply to short-term prisoners. Their management, and access to
    opportunities, is dependant on the Assessment and Management Rules that comprise the Prisoner Supervision Level System. The principle purpose of open prisons is to prepare individuals for release, which leads to the conclusion those serving very short sentences would neither require nor benefit from open prison regimes. Hence only those serving a sentence of 18 months and over will be eligible for consideration to be transferred to these establishments.

    3. INTEGRATION WITH SENTENCE MANAGEMENT
    The process for assessing a prisoner's required level of supervision is risk assessment. The majority of risk factors to be considered for supervision levels already form part of the Needs and Risk Assessment process for Sentence Management It is therefore logical that the supervision and needs assessment should be part of the recognised structured Sentence Management process.


    Escort Arrangements


    Future escorting arrangements will be broadly similar to those that currently apply to individual prisoners. Allocation to a level of escort security will be dependent on the outcome of assessment of the risk presented by the prisoner when outwith the establishment. The individual prisoner's escort security level will be independent of the supervision level appropriate within the establishment. It might sometimes be the case that the risk assessment prior to an escort of a Low Supervision Prisoner located in a closed establishment would result in allocation to High Risk Escort precautions.


    Summary
    The integration of the Prisoner Supervision System into the Sentence Management process provides a single cohesive system by which the SPS may manage prisoners through their sentence. PSS is designed to motivate the individual to demonstrate acceptable behaviour patterns and address identified needs. The Management Rules will enable consideration of prisoners serving a sentence of 18 months and over for access to 'top-ends' and open prisons at the earliest stage of their sentence at which preparation for release is appropriate. In the interim the separation of internal supervision level from external escort security considerations permits recognition of an individual prisoner's achievements by the granting of enhanced autonomy within a secure perimeter, regardless of sentence length.

  • These changes will help redress the balance towards Lord Mountbatten's recommendation that individuals be held in the least restrictive conditions which are appropriate. Another outcome will be a high proportion of the prisoners being subject to Low Supervision arrangements while they are in closed establishments.

    The separate process of risk assessment for escorts or activities outwith a secure perimeter enables us to maintain the same degree of protection to the public as is currently provided

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  • Who is responsible for running the Scottish Prison Service?

    The SPS is headed by its Chief Executive Colin McConnell. The Chief Executive reports to Scottish Ministers who are responsible to the Scottish Government for the Scottish prison system. He is supported by the Prisons Board.

    SPS is an Agency and as such is managed in accordance with the Agency Framework Document found in the publicationssection.

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  • How is the performance of the SPS measured?

    Each year the SPS is set targets by Scottish Ministers under each of the performance measures laid out in its Agency Framework Document.

    The targets cover escapes, assaults, basic quality of life, addressing offending behaviour and cost per prisoner place.

    These are published in our Annual Reports in the publications section.

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  • What qualifications do I need to become a prison officer?

     

    FAQ_Qualifications

     

      





     

     

     

    What experience and qualifications are needed?
    We're looking for people with 5 Standard Grades (1,2 or 3) or equivalent, including, Maths (or Arithmetic) and English

    AND/OR..........

    demonstration of "people facing" experience. This experience could be gained in a wide range of contexts including paid employment, community/voluntary work, educational field or home/social communications. This should provide evidence of an ability to communicate and interact successfully at all levels in a variety of contexts and deal effectively with associated behaviours.

    Are there any age or other restrictions?
    The Prison Service welcomes applications from men and women aged 18-63.

    Variety of skills welcomed?
    We need people with a wide variety of skills and experiences, all of which can be applied positively in a modern prison context. However, successful applicants will share the determination to make a difference.What experience and qualifications are needed?
    We're looking for people with 5 Standard Grades (1,2 or 3) or equivalent, including, Maths (or Arithmetic) and English

    AND/OR..........

    demonstration of "people facing" experience. This experience could be gained in a wide range of contexts including paid employment, community/voluntary work, educational field or home/social communications. This should provide evidence of an ability to communicate and interact successfully at all levels in a variety of contexts and deal effectively with associated behaviours.

    Are there any age or other restrictions?
    The Prison Service welcomes applications from men and women aged 18-63.

    Variety of skills welcomed
    ?
    We need people with a wide variety of skills and experiences, all of which can be applied positively in a modern prison context. However, successful applicants will share the determination to make a difference.

       

     

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  • How long is a life sentence?

    A life sentence lasts for life. However, a punishment tariff is set by the trial judge. This is a period of time which must be served before the prisoner may be considered for parole. At the discretion of the Scottish Ministers and subject to a favourable recommendation from the Parole Board, the offender may then be released on life licence. They remain on licence for the rest of their life and may be recalled to custody for breaching the terms of their licence. The average time spent in prison by prisoners being released on life licence is current around 13 years.

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  • On what grounds and on whose authority can prisoners be required to provide a sample for Mandatory Drug Test?

    For most addicts the toughest path they will ever take is to face up to their problem and undertake rehabilitation and treatment. That is just as true in prison as it is in the rest of our society. Encouraging more prisoners to be tested is central to a modern, mature approach to tackling drugs in prison - one based on getting more prisoners to face up to their problems at an earlier stage. When they do they will be supported. But that support will come with real responsibility. Failure to comply with treatment programmes could lead to them losing privileges like home leave and work placements. Those are meaningful incentives to stay with the programme and stay off drugs. And if we can tackle more of these offenders' addiction problems, we have a better chance of reducing their likelihood of re-offending against communities on release.

    The SPS is currently reviewing its testing policy however it is likely that the SPS will conduct drug testing as follows:

    Reception Testing - All admissions that indicate they wish a substitute prescription (i.e. Methadone / Subutex) will provide a urine sample. This will occur in all establishments that accept admissions from courts etc.


    Clinical Testing
    - Testing of individuals on substitute prescriptions will occur on at least of a monthly basis.

    Progression Testing - All prisoners wishing to progress through the estate will be required to prove they are drug free.

    Suspicion Testing - If a member of staff believes an individual to be under the influence of drugs, a referral for a risk assessment test would be made.

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  • How many people work for the Scottish Prison Service?

    At 31 March 2012, staff complement of the Scottish Prison Service was 4200.

    Further information can be found in our Annual Reports.

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  • What do the Key Performance Indicators mean?

    KPI = Key Performance Indicator


    This can be found under Annual Reports and Accounts.

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Clock Page last updated on 15/02/2013