HM Prison Edinburgh
Tucked away in the suburbs of Edinburgh lies HMP Edinburgh, one of Scotland’s toughest and most notorious prisons. With a history dating back over 100 years, the facility has housed some of the country’s most dangerous and infamous criminals.
History and Background
HMP Edinburgh first opened its doors in 1919, after construction began five years earlier in 1914. Originally simply referred to as “Saughton Prison,” after the area of Edinburgh it is located in, the facility has expanded and evolved over the last century. The grounds today consist of four main cell blocks – Glenesk, Hermiston, Ingliston, and Ratho.
Location and Layout
Geographically, HMP Edinburgh sits on the western outskirts of Scotland’s capital city, close to the main A71 road. Despite being on the edge of a residential suburb, transport links are good, providing accessible routes for visitors, prison staff and those appearing in the nearby Edinburgh courts.
The prison has excellent transport connectivity, being situated close to major roads. This allows for convenient access into central Edinburgh for court dates, visitors traveling to the jail, and for the movement of prisoners themselves.
Capacity and Population
HMP Edinburgh has an operational capacity of 872. The current inmate population sits at around 860 prisoners. Accommodation is provided for adult males and females.
Types of Prisoners
The prison manages short and long-term sentenced individuals along with those on remand still awaiting trial. As well as ordinary inmates, HMP Edinburgh handles life sentence and extended sentence prisoners, including those subject to Order for Lifelong Restrictions.
Prisoners serve a variety of sentences at HMP Edinburgh. These range from short term prisoners in custody for less than four years, right up to life sentence and extended term prisoners who will likely spend the rest of their lives incarcerated at the facility.
Male and Female Prisoners
As well as housing adult male prisoners, HMP Edinburgh is also home to a smaller dedicated female prisoner population in their own separate cell block. All inmates are managed appropriately according to their gender.
Facilities and Services
As a large and important prison, HMP Edinburgh offers various facilities and services to meet inmate needs. Healthcare, library access and work/education opportunities aim to both care for and rehabilitate prisoners.
Since November 2011, all healthcare services have been provided by NHS Scotland to the inmate population. This replaced the previous privately contracted medical provider.
The prison library at HMP Edinburgh is award-winning. It actively promotes literacy and education amongst prisoners who often have much lower reading abilities compared to the general public. This innovative scheme saw the prison librarian awarded Public Library Staff Member of the Year in 2014.
Work and Education
Inmates are offered opportunities to undertake work placements and education programs during their sentences. These services aim to facilitate the rehabilitation and successful reintegration of prisoners back into society upon release.
Notable Inmates Over the Years
With its long history, HMP Edinburgh has housed some of Scotland’s most notorious and famous criminals down through the decades.
Serial killer Peter Tobin, who died in October 2022, was serving three life sentences at HMP Edinburgh for the brutal murders of three young women. He spent over fifteen years incarcerated at the prison.
Other Notorious Criminals
Other infamous names to have served time there include Eduardo Paolozzi, Stephen Gough the so-called “naked rambler,” and Craig Murray, a journalist gaoled for contempt of court. The facility has also housed many dangerous offenders like Robert Bayne, convicted of murder in 2010.
Two recent high-profile cases have flung the spotlight onto HMP Edinburgh and raised wider questions around crime and punishment in Scotland.
Isla Bryson Case
Isla Bryson, a transgender woman convicted of rape carried out when she was a man, was sent to HMP Edinburgh in early 2023. Her case sparked substantial debate around the rights of transgender prisoners and how the law should deal with such rare circumstances.
Nicholas Rossi Saga
In late 2022, HMP Edinburgh found itself at the center of the Nicholas Rossi saga. The American man stands accused of fleeing the United States to evade prosecution for rape charges. Despite claiming mistaken identity, Rossi remains incarcerated at the prison fighting extradition.
With a long and complex history dating back over a hundred years, HMP Edinburgh has established itself as one Scotland’s toughest and most well-known prisons. Having housed some of the country’s most dangerous killers, gangsters and infamous characters, the facility continues to carry out its difficult but important role at the heart of Scotland’s justice system.
Recent high-profile cases and controversies have focused attention on the aging institution, raising complex debates around prisoner rights, gender identity, and international extradition agreements. Staff at HMP Edinburgh find themselves grappling with these issues as they manage the diverse and challenging inmate population.
For over a century, HMP Edinburgh has confined and rehabilitated many of Scotland’s most notorious felons. It remains a harsh yet important component in the country’s ongoing battle against serious crime.
What is the full name of HMP Edinburgh?
The prison’s full name is Her Majesty’s Prison Edinburgh. It is often referred to as Saughton Prison, after the suburb of Edinburgh where it is located.
When was HMP Edinburgh first constructed?
Construction of HMP Edinburgh began on July 31st, 1914. The first prisoner was received in 1919 once construction finished.
What is the normal operational capacity?
HMP Edinburgh normally houses around 872 inmates at any one time. The current population sits at 860 prisoners.
What facilities are on offer to inmates?
As well as accommodation, inmates have access to healthcare services, library/education resources, work programs and daily exercise. Religious guidance is also available.
Have any famous criminals served time there?
Yes, notoriously vicious serial killer Peter Tobin, who died in October 2022, was an HMP Edinburgh inmate. Other well known felons like Eduardo Paolozzi, Stephen Gough and Craig Murray have also spent periods incarcerated there.