HEADLINE: PRIVATE PRISON UNDER FIRE AS BOY, 17, HANGS HIMSELF
BYLINE: John Woodcock
SCANDAL-HIT Kilmarnock prison was plunged into fresh controversy last night after a 17-year-old committed suicide while on remand at the jail.
Coming just days after an official report which damned the jail, the death of James Bolland, from Galston, Ayrshire prompted politicians and civil rights groups to order a review of its status as Scotland's only private prison.
Prison officers found the body of Mr Bolland, who had been remanded in prison from Kilmarnock Sheriff Court last month, at around 12.20pm on Saturday afternoon. He had hanged himself in his cell.
The youngster's death follows a report by Clive Fairweather, the nation's chief inspector of prisons, who declared the institution was "an expensive failure", and criticised conditions where "single officers were (often) supervising large numbers of prisoners."
He added that current low staffing levels meant the jail was not "a particularly safe environment for prisoners or staff."
It is the second time in 12 months that a remand prisoner at Kilmmarnock has taken his own life.
Michael Matheson, deputy justice spokesman for the Scottish National Party, said: "We have been concerned that profitability is coming before decent standards at Kilmarnock.
"While the details of this case have yet to be discovered, it raises grave concerns that he may not have been properly supervised, particularly in the light of last week's report. This is yet another sign that private prisons are not the best solution."
Rosemary McIlwhan, a spokeswoman for the Scottish Centre for Human Rights, said: " It should not be possible for anyone in prison to commit suicide. Staffing levels and the design of institutions should be such that suicides can be prevented. This is a problem throughout the system, and we have particular concerns about the issue of contracting out prison services to private firms."
At their home in Galston, Ayrshire, James' grandparents were last night too upset to talk about their loss.
The teenager's death is the third at Kilmarnock prison since it opened in 1999.
Angelo McAusland, 26, of Drongan, Ayrshire, was found hanged at the jail in March last year. John Galloway, 47, was discovered dead in his cell at the jail on Christmas day last year. While officers launched an investigation into the tragedy, he is believed to have died in his sleep of natural causes.
A spokeswoman for the Scottish Prison Service said the nature of James' death would be the subject of a fatal accident inquiry. But a prison source confirmed he had committed suicide.
It is understood a single member of staff currently has to monitor more than 100 inmates at the prison.
Mr Fairweather's report found that the prison had the highest turnover of staff at any prison, a rate of around 32 per cent. Figures for Barlinnie were 9 per cent while Greenock and Edinburgh were 11 per cent.
The facility, run by the private firm Premier Prison Services, has been heavily criticised since it opened in March 1999. It faced severe fines for failing to deliver standards set down by the prison service.
You knew I would reply on this one. I disagree with the picture that is painted in this article. The last 16 out of the 18 suicides inside prison walls that I am aware of were in public instituions. 14 in maximum units where constant supervision is required.
Ms. Rosemary states it should be impossible to commit suicide inside the prison walls.
What rock did she just climb out from under? But when people make statements like that you know you are dealing with someone who has not a clue.
One last point, 1 to 100 ratio. That is a problem. But alot of public instituions would be proud to be below that. This is not a problem isolated to the private sector.