General Information
-Designed to hold up to 454 inmates between the ages of 16 and 21
-Particularly significant to look into as:
- Around 7,500 people aged 16-18 go through the Scottish justice system
each year
- Age 18 is the peak offending age for males and females therefore the
success of this prison is particularly vital.
-A high proportion of young offenders are housed in Polmont YOI, which
in March 2008 had 313 of the total 476 prisoners aged 16-18.
-Polmont has been subject to particularly high levels of overcrowding in
years, due to sentencing levels and major construction work on site.
-Separated into 8 halls for each type of prisoner:
-Short term prisoner up to 4 years (92)
-Under 18 young offenders (94
-Addiction Support Unit (92)
-Additional Support unit for Vulnerable Yos (91)
-Untried/Remand Yos (126)
-Admission Young Offenders (115)
-Long Term Prisoners over 4 years (88)
-Punishment and Segregation Unit (14)
-Family Contact Development Officers are in place in residential
areas working with prisoners on a daily basis. As part of their
secondary duties they attend the visit room to offer advice and
support to families.
• -The Visiting Committee (VC) : Visiting Committee members are
totally independent of prison staff. They are appointed as outside
observers. Their job is to check on the conditions in the prison, for
example food, warmth, decency, exercise and work, and to follow up
any matters that you may wish to raise with them.
• Incentives and Privileges Scheme: This was introduced to
Polmont in September 1997, based on a similar scheme that
operates in the English Prison Service.There are 3 levels of
privileges that operate in every residential area in Polmont - basic,
standard and enhanced. The principle of this scheme is to reward
good conduct and effort and to discourage anti-social behaviour in
all young offenders. Good conduct is rewarded by providing
additional access to:- Recreation, Visits, Private Cash and Personal
items in use.
Opportunities/ Re-habilitation
Work Allocation :Within the first week of admission, young offenders will be
allocated to a work placement within Polmont.
Initial work placements will depend on the length of sentence, supervision
level, level of education, previous experience and personal development.
-The current offer in prisons is split between provision delivered as part of
Learning, Skills and Employability (LSE) contracts and that offered through
Vocational Training (VT) in prisons.
VT: Catering, Bricklaying, Carpentry / Joinery, Engineers, Hairdressing,
Painting and decorating, Information Technology, Bricklaying, Plumbing,
Roofing & Plastering, Waste Management.
- Educational Opportunities for prisoners (LSE): Motherwell College provide
a Learning Centre Facility for Polmont Young Offenders including courses
in: Communications , English, Maths and Numeracy, Information
Technology, Creative Skills (Art/Craft, Cookery, Music), Employability, Life
Skills (Health and Safety, First Aid, Food Hygiene).
-In addition, each prison has a list of external
providers – including Jobcentre Plus, Careers Scotland and the voluntary
sector who provide learning and skills support.
-Although there is an increasing focus through 16+ Learning Choices on
effective needs assessment, young prisoners are disconnected from
local area developments from being accommodated in a national institution
for young offenders. This presents major barriers to maintaining links with
the local learning and skills infrastructure, limiting the prospects of them
making a smooth reintegration back into their community on release.
Within prison the learning and skills offer is voluntary and is not offered to all
prisoners. Those on remand and short sentences – the majority – miss out
on this opportunity and this should be reconsidered. Successfully engaging
with these excluded groups offers a chance to help break the cycle between
communities and prisons.
-Figures from Motherwell College show that 51% of the prison population
participated in learning during the first half of 2009 – one of the highest
rates in the entire estate.
-As well as this formal provision, creative approaches have proven to be
effective with young prisoners EG the writing and production of a play in
partnership with the Traverse Theatre, production of a DVD for schools on
the consequences of offending and Greenock Prison‟s joint project with
Govan Radio to introduce a DJ radio class.
• -To date, achievements have included engagement with 1,204
clients with 398 moving into positive destinations. In December 2008
the recidivism rate or those released into the community was 33%.
• -However, services like this depend on regional funding models so
are not a universal entitlement. For example, although much of
south east, west and central Scotland are covered, the offer is not
open to prisoners returning to the Highlands, Aberdeen or Tayside.
Funding is also precarious, short term, and often reliant on trusts.
• -Also, according to Robert Brown MSP, re-offending rates at
Polmont were as high as 91%. (2009)
Expert Opinions
Chief inspector of Prisons Andrew McLellan described the challenges
posed by the wide range of prisoners, with varying needs and problems,
who are housed in very different standards of accommodation. (05/08/2004
The report highlights that:
* The prison population has increased by 50 per cent. This is not the result
of increasing numbers of young offenders but is due to young offenders
from Dumfries and Glenochil, and under-21 remand prisoners from Barlinnie
being moved there.
* The accommodation in Iona Hall is excellent but conditions in two of the
halls - where slopping out still takes place - is very bad. (since been
abolished - 2007)
* Last year (2003), 15 children under the age of 16 were detained in
* Many young adults spend a great deal of time locked up in cells.
* The prison's youth centre makes a good contribution to developing young
adults' personal and life skills.
* There are a number of good initiatives in place to ensure that family
contact is maintained.
• Dr McLellan said:
- "The range of needs and problems of young adults in Polmont is
great. It holds convicted and unconvicted prisoners, including sex
offenders, with convicted prisoners serving sentences ranging from
a few days to life. The prisoners also show differing levels of
maturity, with Polmont sometimes housing children under 16.
• "For years Polmont has struggled to find enough worthwhile activity
for prisoners and the rise in its population last year, due to transfers
from other prisons, has not helped. Many young adults spend a
great deal of time locked up in their cells and Polmont must not
allow this to become the normal way of life. Children under 16 are
among affected by this. It is not possible for Polmont to provide
anything like suitable circumstances, conditions and activity for
them. Children are only held in prison when there is no other place
available for them, but that does not make it right.
• "Almost every source agreed about one matter. There is not enough
food for young men."
• "A number of very good initiatives are in place in Polmont. There is a
"care orderly room" which avoids the need for disciplinary action
following a first drugs failure, good pre-release arrangements are in
place and a family awareness induction evening helps alleviate their
fears and encourages them to adopt a supportive and active role in
the care of the young adults. Therapeutic focus groups in the health
centre offer high level support to change an individual's lifestyle and
there is a dedicated mental health team. Excellent work is also being
carried out by the youth centre, especially on personal and social

Polmont Prison - Learning Network