PRISONERS should be given more meaningful work to do while serving their sentences, Scotland's chief inspector of prisons has said.

In his annual report on Scotland's prisons, Brigadier Hugh Monro said too many offenders are denied access to worthwhile activities while they are in jail, and also called for more educational opportunities to be made available.

Mr Monro said that giving prisoners access to work and other activities helps to prevent prisoners from re-offending once they finish their sentences.

He said: "My opinion is that access to activities is a vital part of the rehabilitation process. If prisoners, including those untried or un-sentenced prisoners on remand, are not participating in purposeful activities during the day, there is much less likelihood of them being prepared for release back in to the community.

"If Scotland is to reduce re-offending, then prisoners need as much access to purposeful activities as possible."

His report says 39% of prisoners in Dumfries and 40% in Kilmarnock Prison were out of their cells during the day to get work training or education.

Mr Monro called on the Scottish Prison Service to establish guidelines on the acceptable percentage of prisoners engaging in activities, and also work out the costs of bringing all prisons up to this benchmark.

The inspector's comments come as the Scottish Government released statistics which show reconviction rates in Scotland are now at their lowest level in the past 13 years.

According to the data, 30.1% of prisoners released in 2009-10 were convicted of a crime within a year – a fall of 1.4% on 2008-2009.

Justice Minister Kenny MacAskill said: "We are working hard to make our streets safer and these latest statistics showing that reoffending rates are at their lowest level in over a decade are to be welcomed."