A warder is in hospital after a riot at one of Scotland’s two private prisons, sparking concern about private security in jails.
The Scottish Ambulance Service said that a 29-year-old man was taken to St John’s hospital in Livingston with head and facial injuries at about 7.50pm, after emergency services were called to Addiewell in West Lothian last night. Lothian and Borders police said that up to ten prisoners were “actively” involved in the incident.
Kalyx, the private company that runs the jail, confirmed that there had been a disturbance, leaving one prison officer injured.
Clive Fairweather, a former chief inspector of prisons, suggested that private jails such as Addiewell were reducing costs by cutting back on staff and training.
He said it was likely that prisoners were taking advantage of lower staffing levels in Addiewell, which is run as a business.
According to reports, the riot broke out after inmates were refused methadone, a heroin substitute. Up to 100 prisoners were said to have gone on the rampage, setting fire to pool tables and attempting to reach the roof of the building. Part of the building was flooded after prisoners smashed a water pipe while trying to escape.
One inmate told a newspaper that the warder who was injured had been struck in the face with a pool cue.
Addiewell, which holds up to 700 prisoners, has gained a reputation for violence since it opened in December 2008. Last February, only a few months after it became operational, five men were placed in a segregation unit after a three-hour disturbance that left a cell damaged by fire. In October, a prisoner officer required hospital treatment after a disturbance involving about 20 inmates.
Mr Fairweather, who inspected Scotland’s only other privately run prison at Kilmarnock, said: “To make a profit the only place you can cut corners is on staffing.
“Therefore you have the minimum number of staff, you have the minimum amount of training and it’s certainly my experience with Kilmarnock that violence and the like was a problem until eventually staffing levels got to a slightly better stage.”
Mr Fairweather claimed that prisoners in places such as Addiewell and Kilmarnock had “never had it so good”.
He said: “They didn’t want to go anywhere else, but they are taking advantage of the fact there aren’t the same staffing levels as there are in other major prisons.
“Indeed, were there to be major riots in somewhere like Addiewell or Kilmarnock, I’m pretty certain the riot shields and those to deal with it would actually have to come from the rest of the Scottish Prison Service.”
Mr Fairweather urged ministers to back the governor and staff at Addiewell and press the private company to look again at the staffing and training levels in place.