Brigadier Hugh Monro CBE also said he intended to focus on the impact of illegal drugs in the prison system and the provision of methadone to prisoners.

Mr Monro, who took over the role of Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Prisons on June 16, was setting out his plans for the post for the first time, having spent his initial months in post visiting every prison in Scotland.

On an informal visit to Glasgow’s Barlinnie prison yesterday, the new chief inspector hailed investment in rehabilitation and addiction work in the system. However, he added: “Some programmes for the most violent or dangerous prisoners seem not so readily available.”

The Violent Prisoner Programme (VPP) is geared to addressing the behaviour of some of Scotland’s most dangerous men ahead of release. Mr Monro said it appeared that some of those who should be on the programme were not being offered places.

He said: “It is a resourcing matter – all these programmes cost money, and some involve specialists such as psychologists.

“The programme works to address their violent behaviour and intervene, but if you can’t get in to the programme you can’t make progress.”

He said he also intended to look at access to programmes for sexual offenders.

Mr Monro said he had been surprised by the widespread availability of illegal drugs in prisons, which he said inevitably threatened the safety and security of jails. Recovery from addiction and the issue of drugs into prisons would be another focus of his tenure as chief inspector, he said.

He claimed SPS policy on the prescribing of drugs such as methadone needed to be clarified, and said that in some cases the quantity of methadone a prisoner received seemed to be at the prisoner’s own discretion.

“I am perfectly happy to support the use of methadone in terms of managing prisoners’ stability. It is a very useful tool. But in the longer term I would like to feel there was some way of reducing the methadone intake. In some prisons, prisoners seem to have a major say in how much methadone they get.”

Future inspections will focus on the extent to which prisoners are prepared for release, Mr Monro said, and the work being done in community links centres. He said there should be better tracking of prisoners when they are returned to society, to enable prison governors to adjust their programmes based on what was most effective at preventing reoffending.

He also stated his intention to investigate the effectiveness of community disposals as an alternative to prison, despite the fact that such work is outside his immediate remit.

He said he supported the government policy of attempting to eliminate short sentences, adding: “The feeling from governors, staff and prisoners themselves is that short sentences don’t work.”

“I do not think prison is a ‘skoosh’,” he said, in response to the widely reported comments from justice secretary Kenny MacAskill earlier this year that short prison sentences did little to change behaviour.

He added: “On the other hand, I have spoken to a number of prisoners, particularly younger ones, who have found a community sentence more demanding.”


Brigadier Hugh Monro CBE took over as HM Chief Inspector of Prisons for Scotland in June.

His job is to report to ministers on the conditions for and treatment of those detained in Scottish prisons, and is paid an annual salary of £117,750

Monro served for 36 years in the army, joining the Queen’s Own Highlanders in 1972 and retiring in 2008.

Since retiring he has worked as a senior associate and consultant for Exclusive Analysis, a firm specialising in political risk forecasting.