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Inverness's surprising new prison governor

Caroline Johnston who has taken over as the new governor at Inverness Prison.

Inverness’s first female prison governor has vowed to bring more purpose and better facilities for families to Porterfield after taking over under a cloud of controversy.

Caroline Johnston started at the jail last week, replacing Angus MacVicar, who resigned in December last year following what is understood to be alleged inappropriate behaviour.

The 43-year-old former deputy governor at Edinburgh and Shotts prisons said: "I do recognise the prison has experienced some difficult times. The staff have been through a fairly difficult time, especially recently. I want to give them a feeling of a sense of direction and pride again in their roles."

Mrs Johnston arrives as efforts by the Scottish Prison Service (SPS) to find a site to replace the 111-year-old overcrowded jail — which housed 143 prisoners this week — are ongoing, almost five years after plans were first announced. Last month, it emerged the estimated cost of a new Highland prison had jumped to £62.7 million, a rise of more than £10 million in less than two years.

Although she accepts the old building has limitations, Mrs Johnston believes it remains fit for purpose.

"Whilst it would be fantastic if Inverness could get a new prison, I understand there are competing challenges and priorities and we may well have to make do with the prison we have got for a number of years yet," she said.

She wants to create a better environment for visiting families and more opportunities for inmates to undertake worthwhile work.

As for being a woman with purple hair and an ear stud she states: "I realise I might not be the typical governor but hopefully that’s a good thing.

"I am really passionate about changing things here in Inverness Prison and hopefully, in time, everyone will reap the benefits."

* Buy The Inverness Courier to read an in-depth interview with Caroline Johnston.

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