HM Prison Perth
HM Prison Perth is located just outside the city center of Perth in central Scotland. Known as the “Depot” in its early days, the prison was constructed from 1810-1812 primarily to house French prisoners captured during the Napoleonic Wars. Since 1842, it has served as Perth’s main prison for holding short-term incarcerated men.
Long History and Shifting Purposes
As the oldest working prison in Scotland, HM Prison Perth has undergone many shifts in purpose over its 200+ year history. Today it operates as a maximum security facility focused on the following groups:
- Short-term prisoners with less than 4 year sentences
- Fine defaulters
- Remandees from nearby regions awaiting trial
- Category A high-risk prisoners serving life sentences
Sprawling Infrastructure Across Multiple Buildings
The present-day facilities include multiple structures:
The original Main Building designed by renowned architect Robert Reid contains five prisoner halls (A-C) with space for over 500 inmates. Features include the visitation area, dining facilities, inmate cells and more.
Friarton Hall (Now Closed)
A second modern structure called Friarton Hall previously housed prisoners nearing the end of their sentences to prepare them for release into open conditions. But it closed in 2010 due to limited usage.
Hanging Block (Demolished)
A condemned cell block was later built in 1965 to carry out executions by hanging. However, it was never utilized before capital punishment was abolished in the UK. The building no longer stands today.
Thousands of Prisoners Over the Years
Given Perth’s centuries of operation, thousands have passed through it confines – from 19th century French soldiers to contemporary convicts like Edinburgh killers and cult leaders. A number of its former inmates have achieved particular notoriety:
- Thomas McCulloch – Child killer who abducted, raped and murdered 8-year old Moira Anderson
- Jimmy Boyle – Reformed convicted murderer who became a sculptor & novelist
- John Straffen – England’s longest-serving prisoner with 55 years behind bars
Recent Challenges Prompt Change
Declining prison populations and increasingly poor conditions sparked several modern developments including:
Expansions to Hall C (2006)
With cell blocks dated and run-down, Hall C was demolished and replaced with a modern 365 capacity unit for improved inmate housing.
Closure of Friarton Hall (2010)
The standalone Friarton Hall was shut down permanently given limited use of the aging structure.
Increased Population Capacity
After the Hall C expansion and closure of Friarton Hall, overall capacity rose to around 700 total prisoners distributed across the Main Building’s remaining units.
Ongoing Controversies and Complexities
Managing a facility as large and old as HMP Perth poses difficulties around:
Despite facility upgrades, overpopulation strains prison resources. Cells intended for one often house two or more inmates.
Violence & Drug Trade
Gangs, weapons, drugs and violence cause persistent safety risks. One key issue is restricting contraband smuggling both among prisoners and from external sources.
Like prisons nationwide, HMP Perth struggles with understaffing, overwork and high turnover – exacerbating oversight and risk factors.
With limited vocational, counseling, addiction and educational programming, critics argue HMP Perth warehouse prisoners rather than rehabilitate them.
Significant Community Impact
The sheer scale and history of HMP Perth make it influential across Perth, Scotland and the wider community. Local partnerships work to foster engagement via prison tours, inmate arts programs, employment links and more.
Inside Day-to-Day Life
Prisoners face strict routines and limitations on freedom, dictated by security level. A typical inmate schedule might look like:
6:30 AM – Wake Up
7:00 AM – Breakfast 8:00 AM – Work Duties
12:00 PM – Lunch 1:00 PM – Resume Duties 5:00 PM – Dinner 7:00 PM – Locked In Cells
Privileges like yard time, library access or religious services depend on good behavior. But restrictions persist around visitation, approved possessions, communication and mobility.
Over 200 years, HMP Perth has progressed from a wartime prison to a closed microcosm of society itself. While many problems plague outdated facilities and evolving attitudes shape rehabilitation debates, Perth continues adapting to safely house hundreds of Scotland’s convicted. Perhaps the future holds modernization helping prisoners re-enter the outside world successfully.
What is the total current capacity at HMP Perth?
The total current capacity is around 700 prisoners across the remaining cell blocks in the Main Building.
How many halls are still used for prisoner housing?
Following demolition of Hall C and closure of Friarton Hall, the 3 remaining halls (A, B and the new C) are used to house inmates.
When was the last execution held?
The condemned block (separate Hanging Building) was never used for executions before capital punishment ended in the UK by 1969 so no lawful executions occurred at HMP Perth.
How many staff work at the prison?
Records indicate over 200 employees including prison officers, healthcare workers, educators, maintenance crews, administration and more.
What options exist for former prisoners after release?
HMP Perth works closely with organizations that help former inmates with housing, jobs, healthcare, addiction support, finance help and other transition needs post-release. Partners include Sacro, Positive Prisons, Choices Into Action Perthshire and more locally focused groups.