HMP High Down was announced as a Reform prison in April 2016, effective during June/July 2016, together with the appointment of an Executive Governor. However, the prison is yet to see any significant changes.
2016 has been a challenging year. The early part of the year saw a period of approximately 4 months where a restricted regime was introduced for safety reasons due to a shortage of operational staff. This resulted in severely limiting any time ‘out of cell’ and had a significant impact on fairness and decency for prisoners. The regime continues to have periods of restrictions.
Lower staff numbers required the regular cross deployment of officers. The resulting impact on continuity of staff in Residential areas added to prisoner frustrations and anxieties. The areas housing more complex prisoners such as Segregation and Healthcare In-patients have been most acutely affected by the loss of specialist officers.
As reported in 2015, the Board is still of the opinion that there is a causal connection between the general frustration and violence towards fellow prisoners and officers. Violent incidents against staff rose from 47 to 89, and prisoner on prisoner incidents rose by approximately 25%. Incidents are often exacerbated by the use of drugs such as Psychoactive Substances. The increase in violence is symptomatic of a national prison issue.
The Board poses the question to the Prisons Minister; how does the Minister propose to fully deliver and measure the success of the Reform prison strategy, particularly in relation to High Down in its current transitional state?
Contact: Sue Bird, Chair, IMB, High Down, 0207 147 6300
Notes for editors
HMP High Down is a category B local prison for men, holding over 1200 prisoners. By law, every prison has an Independent Monitoring Board with unlimited access to the prison which must satisfy itself, among other things, that prisoners are held in a humane and just way. The Board consists of unpaid volunteers from the local community.