The professionalism and commitment of staff at Cardiff prison has ensured the maintenance of an atmosphere of good order and good relationships despite the challenges which the prison has faced, according to a report released this week. The report by the prison’s Independent Monitoring Board describes a number of major difficulties faced by the prison, but states that its staff have seen the prison through the worst of these. “Like all prisons in Wales and England, Cardiff faced major challenges during the period of this report,” stated the Chair of the Independent Monitoring Board, Mr Stephen Cocks, “but we can see a lot of positive change and are confident that things are moving forward.”
The report, which covers the year to September 2017, highlights three major issues which have faced the prison: a shortage of staff, the poor standard of some areas of accommodation and the availability of synthetic stimulants, usually known as “Spice”.
“Staff cutbacks have had a major impact on key areas of the prison’s work,” explained Mr Cocks. “Training for employment and rehabilitation programmes are all central to reducing reoffending and Cardiff has some excellent programmes, yet staff shortages resulted in prisoners locked in cells and unable to access these for much of the time. The issue of staff shortages was being addressed, however, and a full regime of education and training has now been re-established.”
Aspects of accommodation at the prison are a major concern in the report, some of which are described as resulting in a lack of basic decency. “The lack of any kind of screening around toilets in cells shared by two men is unacceptable”, stated Mr Cocks, “and it is disappointing that this continues despite previously being reported by us.” Other issues listed in the report include showers out of use for long periods of time and a major problem of rising damp in the healthcare block.
The imposition of a smoking ban in the prison also coincided with increased incidents of the use of other substances, particularly “spice”. There has been a rise in violence across all prisons in Wales and England and Cardiff did not escape this, with a rise in the number of assaults by prisoners on other prisoners and on staff. “There is no doubt that the prison faced some major challenges during the reporting period, particularly as a result of staff shortages and the availability of “spice”; problems which coincided with an increase in violence and the use of restraint”, commented Mr Cocks. “However, the management and staff have been active in addressing these issues and measures such as a return to a full regime, programmes to reduce violent behaviour and increased measures against illicit substances are bringing about improvements.”
Acting as a member of the prison Monitoring Board is fascinating work. Board members are recruited from the local community and, although the work is voluntary, members are paid expenses. The Board carries out occasional recruitment campaigns and Board members are always happy to discuss the work of the Board with anyone interested.
Read the report in full here.
A Welsh translation of the report is available here.