Scotland

General News, Articles and Information from The POA North of the Border:

16.03.2011

HMP Noranside Branch Letter

Colleagues,

In our last musings we told you how we had just been informed the SPS intention to close HMP Noranside.

Since then we have had a Special delegate’s conference at which we received unanimous support to campaign for the retention of Noranside. This was based mainly on the fact that the rationale for closure provided by management was questionable and sparse in detail. All delegates accepted that this issues is not just about “little” Noranside , this is about sending a message that if closure of a public prison is to be accepted , it has to be after all possibilities have been fully and not driven by a quick win on savings . We all know there is more to come , so we have to ensure that future savings driven decisions are made with all the facts and for the right reasons .What always appears to be forgotten by management is that we are massively overcrowded as a service and if there are problems with the system progressing prisoners, which creates vacancies in the open prison estate…fix the system, don’t close a public prison!!

So after the special delegates   the SNC informed the SPS of the POA(S) stance on the matter and the Chief Exec immediately postponed the closure decision for approx one month ,to allow the POA( S) to prepare a counter case.  At this p[point it does beg the question why did the SPS recognise that there was a need to allow the POA(S) to put across their proposals for retention in detail , but only after they had announced their intention to close the establishment….surely this should all have been looked at in great detail prior to any announcement. It was however, becoming clear that the SPS case for closure had not been looked at in any great detail.

We started to organise the campaign. Members lobbied their local MSPs (prisons are a devolved issue for the Scottish parliament), and the SNC produced a petition for the cabinet secretary for justice. Over the course of the next three weeks members petitioned local councillors, VC, MSPs, petitions appeared in every local business. Nationally our local branch colleagues were collating signatures from their members/areas. The SNC Vice chair appeared on national TV to re-iterate the folly of the proposed closure.

We worked on a daily basis with the SNC (special thanks to Phil Fairlie and Andy Hogg) to prepare a case for retention to present to the board. Detailed counter arguments were put forward and facts and statistics which were extremely powerful in pressing for retention.

Our committee organised a rally in the main local town, we arranged for this to be attended by 90% of our membership, MSPs, MPS of all political persuasion, local councillors, friends and family. We arranged for local and national radio coverage, local and national press coverage, and national TV coverage

Continued press coverage carried on over the next few weeks, building up to us taking a bus of members to the Scottish parliament building along with the SNC to lobby MSPs of all parties and make them aware of the case for retention, and generally build up political pressure.

The petition was then completed and collated, culminating in a 4300 signature petition being presented to J Swinney the finance secretary and local MSP, again with press coverage.
All of the above was achieved in the space of 6 weeks. Imagine what we could have done given more time. Mobilising a campaign and keeping momentum in the media and politically has proven to be successful so far.

On behalf of all the committee I would like to thank all the members both locally and nationally for their support and hard work , and also to the SNC , the campaign thus far has brought everyone together behind the cause

The SNC then met with the justice secretary who after listening to the campaign and case for retention made the announcement that he wanted the SPS to carry out a mini estates review to ensure all areas explored in full prior to putting and case for closure forward to him. This is to be done ASAP after the Scottish elections on May 5th

So the future is still uncertain, but we are still here… on the 16th Dec we were closed!!! At least now we can have an input into ensuring all possibilities are investigated fully to find a better use of all our bed spaces, and that short sighted ill informed decisions are not allowed to be made by people who know nothing about what their prisons deliver and how it is delivered.

Hopefully we will be able to contribute to further gate lodges

From all (STILL) behind the barricades