TAG | Prisons
I was very disappointed to read of the Scottish Prison Service’s decision not to release information relating to Noranside Open Prions under the Freedom of Information Act, on the pretext that, “it would not be in the public interest”.
It is extremely unfair on the staff at the prison for them to be treated in this way. Staff deserve some certainty and clarity from the SNP government about the future of their jobs. They also deserve to know how the decisions around the prison have been reached.
Not only do they have a right to know how the SNP government came to its decision to close the hugely successful prison, but also why they were assured last year that there were no closure plans, and why the decision has now been delayed until after the election.
The SPS must honour its obligations under the Freedom of Information Act and release details of any documents relating to the decision to close Noranside.
Local Lib Dems have backed a petition to save Noranside Open Prison to be submitted to the Scottish Justice Secretary.
Cllr David May commented:
“The SNP Minister’s decision to close Noranside will hugely affect the staff and their families from across all of Angus.”
“Whilst they have been offered choices to transfer to other prisons, prison officers may simply not be able to afford the extra travel or disruption to their family life. Some may even be forced to move home, out of Angus.”
“The decision may also limit their career prospects as more prison officers compete for fewer senior positions. The impact of this poorly thought through decision will be long lasting.”
Angus and Mearns campaigner, Sanjay Samani, added his support for the petition, saying:
“It is welcome that Nigel Don MSP and John Swinney MSP, have backed Lib Dem Justice Spokesman, Robert Browne MSP in his criticism of Kenny MacAskill’s decision.”
“However, it is entirely within Mr Swinney’s power as Finance Secretary to provide the funding to save Noranside. So the question has to be asked why he has not done so.”
“It is vital that Noranside Open Prison, and its staff continue their excellent work, rehabilitating criminals, giving them real prospects and minimising reoffending in the area.”
Cllr May also raised concerns about a bonus culture within the prison service, wasting funds that could be better used to keep Noranside open.
“Reports suggest that overcrowding payments, totalling millions, are encouraging prisons to hold on to prisoners that should be released to open prisons like Noranside.”
“There are questions that need to be asked about bonus payments to top officers.”
“In addition, there are plans to pay huge sums to repair Castle Huntly’s roof. How can that make economic sense, whilst closing Noranside.”
The Scottish Government are in a mess over the closure of Noranside Prison. SNP Finance Minister, John Swinney MSP has promised to fight the closure, criticising the decision of his own cabinet colleague, Kenny Macaskill MSP.
The SNP need to get their story straight on Noranside. On the one hand you have the Justice Minister deciding to close the prison and on the other, you have the Finance Minister and colleagues saying it should stay open.
The decision to close the prison makes no sense given the good work done by the prison and the impact on local jobs and the local economy. The SNP should be supporting local people and businesses in Angus.
Noranside is currently underutilised purely as a result of Kenny Macaskill’s own decisions. Long term criminals are being released directly from closed prisons without any transition or preparation for a completely changed environment. Noranside provides an essential service for cutting re-offending rates.
Yet again, we have a simplistic solution from the Scottish Government, who cannot see the wider picture. And in fact, it seems as if the SNP’s left hand can’t see what the right is doing.
Angus Cllr David May also called for Noranside to remain open, commenting:
“It is clear that the SNP are now totally split over what to do with Noranside. Kenny McCaskill needs to do a U Turn, as Noranside is a vital part of the justice system. The Angus open prison has an excellent reputation for the rehabilitation of its prisoners. I have heard that they get their parole and do not return, which is surely what we want from all of our prisons.”
“Furthermore, at a time when a recently released Scottish government report shows that the prison population is growing, it is astonishing that the SNP Justice minister has announced plans to close what has been described by many as the hugely successful Noranside open prison.”
“In addition it is an open secret that there is still overcrowding in other prisons, as I have heard that one prison governor asked for ideas on how to spend the money he gains from overcrowding. If this is true and the prison population is rising it really is absurd that Mr Macaskill plans to close Noranside.”
“I am also concerned about reportsof a bonus system in operation in our prison system which only applies to the best paid staff. If this is the case the SNP Justice and Finance ministers need to explain why they support this especially at a time of cuts and what is the basis for the bonuses. Surely it is not based on overcrowding?”