Dave Crimmin

IT is an indistinguishable old bakery that used to be a skeletal ruin and now houses refurbished antiques and finely re-upholstered chairs.

It has been restored mainly by men who committed murder a long time ago. There is no fence, no barbed wire, no security guard.

These men are still serving life sentences, but as part of their reintegration into the community they are working here unsupervised for five days a week for 12 months before being considered for open prison and release.

The new “national top end” system for life prisoners in ¬≠Barlinnie means they work on a voluntary basis in and around Glasgow in order to prepare for their release into the community.

The new Open Gates project in Glasgow, visited earlier this week by Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill, has refurbished the previously derelict White House in Maryhill and this former bakery. It has taken men others would not: men whose names have been plastered across the front pages of the tabloids; men who have changed. The aim is to help them turn their lives around.

Brian has been working at the Open Gates project for eight months but has not yet finished his prison sentence. He has already spent 15 years inside. He works here five days a week.

“Within four years of the punishment part ending we can move to national top end,” he says. “For the first 12 months of that we are just in the hall, and then we start to go out every three months on special escorted leave with our personal officer or two prison guards.

“What I did was a one-off. The feelings of guilt don’t go away. This project is great. We can talk about what we’re going through. I’ve been working with joiners and electricians on the renovation of the White House. I know it won’t be easy to go back out into the world with no skills.”

Scott is also on national top end. He says his aim is to try to mentor young people when he comes out, to persuade them to leave crime behind them.

Owen Curran, the national top end manager for Barlinnie, said: “Life prisoners within four years of completing the punishment part of their sentence should be aiming to be in national top end. They do a year on escorted leave and a year-long work placement. Then if they have completed all the risk assessments they would go on to the open prison estate.