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Social work in prisons

Social work at HMP Shotts

HM Prison Shotts is a maximum security prison for long term adult male prisoners. 

The prison is situated in countryside south of the M8 motorway near the Lanarkshire village of Shotts. The original prison, purpose built in 1978, catered for long term male prisoners (sentences of four years and over) who are transferred from other establishments and who require to be kept secure conditions. The prison was extended in 1987 and has since been completely rebuilt on the same site.

What is our role?

The main role of the social work unit is to attempt to reduce re-offending by addressing the needs and risks of the men in HMP Shotts. This can be through establishing and addressing previous life events which have impacted on the prisoner's behaviour and updating formal risk assessment tools to monitor progress in an attempt to reduce re-offending.

Social work staff will also undertake specific pieces of work identified to assist the prisoner progress his sentence, this is commonly known as one-to-one work.

A prisoner will have initial contact by a prison based social worker if they are to be on an Order or Licence upon release, such as:

  • Parole and Non-parole Licence
  • Life Licence
  • Extended Sentence
  • Order of Life Long Restrictions
  • Recall to prison due to breach of a previous release licence

All prisoners will be advised of the role of the prison based social work at their induction into the prison.  After that, prison based social work has contact with prisoners throughout their sentence in relation to the Integrated Case Management (ICM) process, risk assessments, reports and pre-release planning.

Social work in prisons is part of the provision of a comprehensive Throughcare Criminal Justice Social Work Service, commencing before the arrival of the offender in prison and continuing for many offenders, after release into the community.

For social work units in prisons, there are a range of required tasks which have to be carried out in relation to pre-release, assessment and planning, associated with parole and other statutory supervision post-release. This includes provision of information, assessments and reports from social workers in prisons and their community based colleagues, as well as the arrangement of pre-release planning meetings.

In the prison based social work unit the core tasks are:

  • Providing reports for the parole board and prisoner tribunals to assist them in making a decision about the release of prisoners
  • Participation in the Integrated Case Management Case Conferences (ICM)
  • Completing risk assessments in order to inform of the prisoners level of risk and needs
  • Work with other providers in the prison such as psychology, programmes, health services and addictions services etc. in planning for prisoner's progress throughout their sentence
  • Liaising with criminal justice services in the community throughout the prisoner's sentence and preparation for release
  • Undertaking individual programmes of work with prisoners to address their offending behaviour if their needs cannot be met through Scottish Prison Service interventions

Social work related child care or child protection issues

A wide range of issues regarding the care and protection of children of men in prison may be raised, either by the prisoner themselves or external social work agencies.

Our team works closely with Scottish Prison Service (SPS) and other social work agencies to ensure the safety and protection of the child.

Prison Throughcare and After Care Services

Throughcare refers to a range of social work and other support services provided by local authorities to prisoners and their families from the point of sentence, during their period of imprisonment and subsequent release into the community.

It consists of two elements: work with offenders in prison to help them address and change their criminal behaviour, and work in the community designed to re-integrate them back into mainstream society.

Services available to the partners or families of people in prison and help families cope with a number of issues during the prison sentence, they may also need support to readjust to being together again when the person comes out of prison.

Key objectives are:

  • to assist prisoners and their families to prepare for release and  resettlement in the community
  • to work with people after their release to reduce the risk of re-offending
  • to offer support and guidance on any issue that may jeopardise the release licence or order
  • to increase public safety through the effective supervision of people released back into the community on supervision

Voluntary Throughcare

Voluntary assistance is available to people serving a sentence and who are not subject to statutory throughcare supervision on release and can be accessed by requesting assistance while in custody or within 12 months of release.

If a person asks for voluntary assistance, they will need to agree a service and maintain attendance and contact with that service.  They can request information on voluntary throughcare from your personal officer or the prison based social worker.

The range of resources and services available to help people settle back into the life outside prison both on Licence/Orders and through voluntary assistance, include support with:

  • tackling addiction issues
  • helping access appropriate accommodation
  • assisting with financial matters including benefits
  • helping improve family and other personal relationships
  • helping improve job and training opportunities

Voluntary assistance has to be requested by the person who has been or is in prison and it will continue through mutual agreement.

Page last updated:
14 Feb 2024

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