Alarm over children’s parties in jail


By Ben Borland
Prison bosses were under fire yesterday after it emerged that Scottish inmates are regularly allowed to host children’s parties in jail.
At least three prisons in Scotland have special facilities for children’s birthdays and Christmas celebrations in a bid to promote “positive family relationships”.

Other jails are also understood to host birthday parties – complete with the traditional cake, cards, balloons, presents and songs – in private visiting rooms.

John Ewing, chief executive of the Scottish Prison Service (SPS), made the admission in a written answer to MSPs at Holyrood on Thursday. He listed all the steps taken to entertain children who are visiting their parents behind bars, including toys, books, TVs, games consoles and soft play areas.

But he also revealed that Perth, Polmont and Kilmarnock prisons have party facilities, while others can host events in family bonding rooms.

Labour’s Shadow Justice Secretary James Kelly yesterday said: “I’m surprised that facilities are available to hold birthday parties in prison and I question whether it is an appropriate place for a child’s party.

“I think the SPS need to explain why these facilities are available.”

Matthew Sinclair, Director of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said: “Making some allowance for children to still be able to celebrate their birthdays with parents who are in prison seems fair enough, but the authorities do need to keep doing all they can to avoid any unnecessary cost to taxpayers so this isn’t yet another burden on families with enough pressures on their finances.”

However, a spokesman for the SPS defended the policy and said it was unfair to punish children for their parents’ crimes.

He explained: “Children’s parties in this context consist of a birthday cake and a card and a chance to sing happy birthday. There are no clowns or performing acrobats for 40 kids.     

“We have done it for a number of years and it is purely for the sake of the kids. Everybody recognises that trying to preserve family links is a good thing.

“It won’t be every prisoner, it will be looked at on a case by case basis. It is not the kids’ fault their mother or father is in jail. We hope to do anything we can do to encourage positive family relationships. This is not normality, it is not a normal set of circumstances, it is a way of recognising the importance of relationships.”

Last week, it emerged that Scottish prisoners are spending up to £150,000 a year on electrical goods like watches, CD players, clock radios, hairdryers and shavers. The figures were revealed as the SPS put out a remarkable tender for a retailer who could sell the items directly to prisoners at “high street prices”.

Meanwhile, bosses at the State Hospital at Carstairs, Lanarkshire, are spending up to £30,000 on plasma screen TVs and Blu-Ray DVD players for some of the country’s most dangerous criminals.

Courtesy of the Scottish Sunday Express