South Scotland

Prisoners at HMP Dumfries describe life behind bars

Jason and James

Prisoners spend up to 15 hours a day locked in their cells at HMP Dumfries.

In there, they can read books, watch television and play computer games. They have a kettle, a sink, a safe and most have a toilet.

The restriction of their liberty is the punishment for their crimes - not their lifestyle inside prison, according to residential officer Kerry Payne.

"Prison isn't a place for punishment anymore," she says. "It's for somebody who's done something wrong to give them that time out to change their life because they don't get that stop-gap.

"Everything just keeps going till it ends up a bigger and bigger problem."

Here, some prisoners describe their life behind bars.


James, 27, has been in and out of prison since he was 18 - he's served time in Polmont, Barlinnie and Kilmarnock, as well as Dumfries.

Outside, he is a joiner. While he is inside, he is a "hall passman" - responsible for cleaning part of the prison and for which he is paid £10 a week.

His cell is a cramped space with room for little more than a bed, a sink and a toilet. Prisoners are also provided with a safe with a lock that staff can override during inspections.

James's room is decorated with posters; he has a stereo and he pays £1 a week for a television.

"It's tiny, but it's mine," he says.


Jason is just over half way through a 13-month sentence at HMP Dumfries.

The 38-year-old has lost count of the number of times he has been locked up since he was remanded for a week when he was 14 years old.

"It's become a bit of a revolving door for me," he says.

Does prison help him?

"No, no. I think you've got to help yourself. Prison doesn't help me, no.

"I suppose over all the years, I've started to think a lot more. I'm getting older now so I'm starting to think a lot more about changing or certainly not doing the same things over and over again but that's taken a long time."

So will this be his last prison sentence? "That's my idea, yeah."

He is taking art lessons in prison - he enjoys it but he is unlikely to continue his hobby on the outside.

"There's a lot of things I need to address first," he says.

Does he enjoy being in prison? "No, definitely not." He'd rather have his freedom? "Yeah, absolutely."


Ryan, a former police officer, has 12 weeks left to serve of his sentence.

He served the first three weeks of his sentence at HMP Addiewell in West Lothian - the local prison for the 29-year-old from Lanarkshire.

"I was kept in isolation from the general population just because of the fact that everyone in the prison would have known me because I probably put a few of them in there," he says.

He was "terrified" of moving to Dumfries, away from his family, but he says staff "couldn't have been more helpful".

During his sentence he has trained as an industrial cleaner.

"I really enjoy the cleaning, to be fair. You're always kept busy, there's always something to do. And I take pride in it. I like to make sure the place is clean and it is presentable."

He added: "It's funny. I wouldn't say anyone enjoys being in here, that would be sort of masochistic. But I think having something to do, having a purpose, having something to work at does sort of make the days go quicker.

"But to the same effect, getting my visits at the weekend, it makes it a lot better."

Related Topics

More on this story

Related Internet links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites