A REVIEW of jails is needed to ensure the human rights of prisoners are not being breached, according to a committee of MSPs.

Richar Leonard, Public Audit Committee convenor, said Audit Scotland found the prison system at "crisis point".

The committee report looked at prisoner transport by contractor GEOAmey and overcrowding in jails.

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The Scottish Government is to release around 550 prisoners to tackle overcrowding.

The Auditor General report raised concerns the Scottish Government could be exposed to litigation by prisoners as a result of the poor conditions in some of the country's prisons.

The committee separately heard from Scottish Prison Service (SPS) chief executive, Teresa Medhurst, that seven prisons were "on the brink" and at "red status" because of overcrowding.

Richard Leonard, Committee convener, said: "Our report is calling for urgent and long-term action to put our prisons and the delivery of services to support them on a more secure footing.

"Whether it's the deteriorating condition of Scotland's prison estate, our over-populated prisons or the repeated failures in the delivery of the Scottish Courts Custody Escorting Services contract - it is clear that we are at a crisis point."

He added: "The Public Audit Committee recognises the challenges facing Scotland's prison services.

"We commend the efforts of frontline staff, particularly at a time when prisoner numbers are at a record high, but it is clear that more must be done to address these challenges and that the time for action is now."

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A spokesperson for the Scottish Government said: "Whilst the Scottish Prison Service (SPS) is managing a high and complex prison population under considerable pressure, the Scottish Government and SPS work closely together to address any issues.

"We remain committed to ensuring that the human rights of the people in our prisons are respected, protected and fulfilled.

"In an extremely challenging fiscal environment, we are increasing investment in our vital prison service by increasing the SPS resource budget by 10% to £436.5m in 2024/25.

"In addition, £167m of capital funding is being invested in the prison estate to allow construction of HMP Highland and HMP Glasgow, continuing the modernisation of the prison estate to better meet the needs of staff and prisoners."

A spokesperson for the SPS said: "We fully recognise the importance of ensuring prison infrastructure is fit for purpose and meets the rights and needs of all those who live and work in our establishments.

"The Scottish Government is delivering investment for our new HMP Glasgow and HMP Highland, which will provide safe and secure accommodation to those in our care, and give the maximum opportunity for successful rehabilitation and positive outcomes."

A GEOAmey spokesperson said: "We apologise to anyone adversely affected during this challenging period of reduced service performance. Since the recalibration of the contract in partnership with the Scottish Government in December 2023, our shared plan to continuously improve is delivering the expected positive results.

"The committee has recommended that all partners look to continue working together to identify further efficiencies across the escort."