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Barlinnie Prison

Glasgow Caledonian University, Research Collections, Heatherbank Museum of Social Work

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Keywords: Barlinnie Prison, canals, crime, criminals, deterrence, gangsters, gaols, jails, Monkland Canal, prisoners, prisons, rehabilitation, Special Unit, suicides

A view of Barlinnie Prison, taken in 1909. In the foreground is the Monkland Canal, which was used to transport building materials when the prison was under construction.

Barlinnie was built on farmland at Riddrie in 1880 as a response to the overcrowding which existed in the prison system in Scotland. It was designed to hold 1,000 male prisoners, who were required to perform hard labour and submit to strict discipline but who had access to education facilities and a library.

The external appearance of Barlinnie has changed little since it was built, although there has been internal upgrading, and the regime is less harsh. From 1973 till 1994, the world-famous "Special Unit" placed emphasis on rehabilitation, the best known success story being that of reformed Glasgow gangster Jimmy Boyle.

In recent years, Barlinnie has suffered from persistent overcrowding and a depressing reputation. Between 1996 and 1998 eight inmates committed suicide. An official report in 1997 described the jail as a "national disgrace", although a subsequent report acknowledged that some improvements had been made.

Reference: Heatherbank Museum of Social Work, print 4070

Reproduced with the permission of Glasgow Caledonian University, Research Collections, Heatherbank Museum of Social Work



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