Anti-violence measures are a step forward against rising attacks on staff and prisoners, says IMB Bullingdon
In their 2018-19 annual report, independent monitors highlight concerns about safety risks to staff and prisoners, for the fourth consecutive year.
- Prisoner-on-prisoner assaults and those by prisoners against officers and staff have risen in the last reporting year, as have fights.
- Drug-related debt is to blame for much of the violence along with hostilities linked to gangs, mental health issues and the fact younger prisoners are more likely than older inmates to resort to physical attacks.
Monitors however comment that the prison is taking measures to address violence including:
- body-worn video cameras and CCTV.
- improved staffing numbers.
- Sniffer dogs have increased the interception of drugs although availability of trained animals is limited.
- Managing the arrival of drug-impregnated mail entering the prison by giving prisoners photocopies of their letters instead of the originals.
The Board comments that most prisoners are treated fairly and humanely, but note the following:
- Prisoners are not always prepared properly for release.
- Many cells hold two prisoners that are designed for one occupant.
- The length of time that some remain on the segregation unit is still a serious concern, although there have been some improvements in the last year.
Vicki Talbot, IMB Bullingdon Chair, says: ” Despite the challenges faced, staff and officers continue to show courage, resolve and a determination to maintain a positive and decent environment. There have also been many occasions when the Board has observed them interacting skilfully and professionally with prisoners” She further comments that the measures introduced to tackle increasing violence levels are a step forward. However, it’s unclear whether these initiatives will be an effective deterrent.