2015 was an even more challenging year than 2014, say Leicester IMB

The Annual Report of the Independent Monitoring Board (IMB) at HMP Leicester was published on Monday 9th May 2016.

The IMB reports that 2015 was an even more challenging year than 2014 for HMP Leicester. During the year there were too few experienced operational staff to cover routine work and contingencies, though those who were present worked hard, and with professionalism and dedication to keep the service running. Sick leave was high, often through stress or injury, and 44 of the 90 frontline Band 3 officers were still in their probationary training year.

In common with other prisons, HMP Leicester experienced rising levels of violence and assault, gang and debt related bullying, an increase in the number of serious incidents and potential disorder, a significant level of New Psychoactive Substance (NPS) use, and rising levels of self-harm. Mental health staffing was inadequate for the very needy population.

There was regular vandalism and destruction of accommodation and facilities, including by fire-setting and flooding.   The overcrowded built environment, already poor and demonstrably unfit for purpose, deteriorated further, despite the prompt efforts of maintenance staff. There was no funding for planned refurbishments and renovations.

The IMB saw effective crisis management by prison staff with volatile situations de-escalated; serious incidents managed without excess force or prisoner injury; the potentially life threatening use of NPS well handled; and serious self-harm averted.   However resettlement functions suffered, education was disrupted and there was little to occupy the well-behaved prisoner.

At the time of the unannounced HMIP Inspection (28th September – 9th October), the Governor and Senior Management Team were well aware of the problems the establishment faced, but remedial plans could not be implemented without better staffing. This was gradually achieved over the following weeks, and IMB can now report that there has been improvment, including in offender management and residential functions, in allocation and attendance at education, and in mental health and safer custody provision.

Throughout 2015 prisoners were appreciative of those areas of the prison which continued to serve their needs well, including catering, the drug rehabilitation service, the Community Rehabilitation Company, the gym, and the library. Alongside this IMB gives particular credit to the Segregation staff who showed commendable resilience in a protracted sequence of trying situations. A continuing feature of HMP Leicester is the positive engagement between prisoners and staff, and 80% of the prisoners surveyed by HMIP stated that they were treated with respect, a higher figure than comparator prisons.

At the end of the reporting period IMB Leicester felt that basic functions were back on a firmer footing, thanks to the work of a committed body of staff and the hard work of the Governor and Senior Management Team. Violence reduction and disruption of the supply of NPS have been prioritised for 2016, and the IMB also hopes to see an increased focus on providing a better experience for the well behaved prisoner, in terms of health, education and skills, equalities, and peer support and resettlement opportunities.

The IMB directed the following questions to the Minister of State for Prisons:

  • First: Is the prison marked for closure? If so,when?
  • Second: If closure is not planned, will the Minister make funds available to address the poor accommodation, the understaffing, and the unsuitable prisoner case mix and overcrowding, and will he increase the facilities for the skills training and education required for successful rehabilitation and local resettlement?
  • Third: Does the Minister acknowledge the pressure placed on the service by severely mentally disturbed prisoners? If so, what plans are in place to address this?

The IMB directed the following questions to the Prison Service:

  • First: The need of the Service to transfer prisoners on and create spaces compromises the ability of HMP Leicester to fulfil its role as local resettlement prison. What steps are being taken to ensure a more ‘joined-up’ approach to the delivery of individual sentence plans?
  • Second: What steps are being taken to ensure the provision of secure accommodation for dangerous and disruptive prisoners and their timely transfer to an appropriate environment?

Read Leicester IMB annual report in full