Brixton IMB fear the long term cost of Covid lockdown

In their Annual Report to 30 August 2020, Brixton IMB commend progress at HMP Brixton before lockdown and good management of a difficult situation after it. They express concern about the long term consequences of lockdown for prisoners.

In March, the necessary changes were introduced quickly and efficiently, a predictable though very limited regime established, and an activities committee set up to give the long days of 23.5 hour lock-up some structure and interest. The established good relationships between staff and men helped the prison to maintain a calm and safe culture, with commendably low levels of violence and self-harm.

Essential services were provided throughout, like healthcare and oversight of men more at risk and with complex needs, increased cleaning, good food, exercise, personal hygiene and PPE, and welfare provision by chaplains and keyworkers. The prison’s joint safety and security strategy was regularly reviewed to ensure that the threats during lockdown were prioritised and adequately monitored. More help was available for prisoners being released from early May.

The Board are concerned about the long term impact on prisoners’ mental health and their preparedness for release. More rehabilitation work could have been done if low-risk prisoners had been released early, and Governors had been given more discretion to ease restrictions.

Anne Rogers, Brixton IMB Chair said: “The Board congratulates the Governor and all the staff and agencies involved for their response to the lockdown. There has been little or no public recognition of prison staff as key workers: but many prisoners recognised the goodwill and help they received. The prison remained safe and calm, in very difficult circumstances for staff who were themselves at risk and anxious for partners, children and relatives.”