South Scotland MSP, Emma Harper, participated in a visit to Her Majesty’s Prison – HMP Dumfries yesterday (Monday 11 July) with Scotland’s Justice Secretary, Keith Brown MSP, to meet with the Governor, staff and those in custody, to see for herself the progressive approach which is being taken to support people in custody, with the ultimate goal of reducing reoffending and allowing people in custody to gain employment and education opportunities on their release from prison.
During the visit, Ms Harper attended an award ceremony for two of the prison staff who intervened to prevent a man from taking his own life in Dumfries Town Centre in June last year. The recognition award was given by the Justice Cabinet Secretary. Ms Harper then joined the Cabinet Secretary for a tour of HMP Dumfries, including to the skills development unit, wellbeing garden, custody unit and family visiting area. Ms Harper said that she was impressed by the “positive atmosphere at the estate on site” and by the close relationships the staff have with those in their care in custody, and with their focus on supporting mental health and wellbeing.
The wellbeing garden enables persons in custody access to the outdoors to grow fruit and vegetables in the polytunnels for the canteen and it has been proven to be beneficial for their physical health and psychological wellbeing. The outside area also houses solar panels which contribute to generating the electricity on site.
The prison also enables local community groups, and in particular those working to support people with dementia, into the garden to use the facilities and they have held events in the garden with the family members of those in custody.
Commenting, Ms Harper said:
“It was good to visit HMP Dumfries with Justice Secretary, Keith Brown MSP. Firstly, we attended an award ceremony with two prison officers who, while on lunch break, intervened and prevented a man from taking his own life in Dumfries town centre in June last year. I again congratulate the officers on their action to save this person. Their awards are hugely deserved.
“I was really impressed with the work of the Governor, and all staff, who are absolutely focused on the health and wellbeing of people in their custody, and who go above and beyond the call of duty to come up with innovative ideas which will ultimately be key in helping people in custody to be equipped to rebuild their lives following their release. During the visit, I was able to hear from young men who were attending a support group to talk about adapting to life after custody and who were learning new and valuable skills which are crucial for obtaining employment. Such skills include barista training, joinery, masonry, gardening and other courses.
“The work the prison is undertaking with the wellbeing garden is also hugely impressive. People are supported to grow their own fruit and vegetables for the prison’s canteen, as well as growing flowers for the remembrance garden where events, such as Remembrance Sunday, are held. The fact that the prison enables families of those in custody to come into the garden to meet their relatives is testament to the progressive approach which is being taken to support prisoners, with the aim of reducing reoffending.
“I wholeheartedly thank all the staff at the prison for their dedicated work and I look forward to continued engagement with HMP Dumfries in the weeks and months to come.”