All change for Cumbria prison – despite Covid challenges

After over 50 years as a closed category C male training and resettlement establishment HMP Haverigg became a category D open prison in December 2019.

Four residences were extensively refurbished and progressively recommissioned as the transfer of men from other prisons from all over England started to take place. The capacity of the prison is planned to be 490.

A relatively self-contained residential unit with single en-suite rooms was designated as a quarantine ‘reverse cohorting unit’ for the isolation of new arrivals at the prison due to the Covid pandemic.


The Independent Monitoring Board at HMP Haverigg has reported throughout the Covid pandemic.  Initially this was by observations made on visits and later by scrutiny of records and data between March and July when monitoring remotely during lockdown. During lockdown the Board held fortnightly teleconferences with groups of men throughout the prison. This enabled the Board to compare the stated position of the prisoners with information provided by management.

In its annual report for 2019-2020 the Haverigg IMB notes that:

  • A total of 235 new residents were located in the prison, with quarantining of all new arrivals in a ‘reverse cohorting unit’ during the pandemic since March 2020. Sixteen men who had tested positive for Covid-19 were also located on the unit. There were no deaths in the prison from the virus in the reporting period.
  • The profile of all the healthcare and mental health teams were raised throughout the year, not only in response to Covid-19, but also in the prompt care and attention given to new arrivals, many of whom are older men who have chronic and underlying health conditions.
  • The Board is of the view that the prison offers good rehabilitation and men of working age will be in a good position to secure employment upon release from the prison.


However, over 24% of men at HMP Haverigg are serving Indeterminate Sentences for Public Protection (IPP) with no release date. It is of concern that, despite significant progress made by many IPP prisoners, that their testing period for release on temporary leave often appears to be delayed. In addition, the absence of a release date clearly has a negative impact on mental health.

Although the overall reduction in the number of IPP prisoners nationally is welcomed, the Board shares the view of other agencies that the abolition of the IPP sentence should apply retrospectively.


IMB Haverigg Chair, Lynne Chambers said: “This reporting year has seen unprecedented challenges for the Governor and staff in managing the changes from being a closed to an open establishment whilst dealing with the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Despite the difficulties, the transformation of the prison has continued. Haverigg is a very different prison to that last year. The Independent Monitoring Board commends the Governor and his team for their leadership of the change management process.”