The Independent Monitoring Board (IMB) at HMP Cardiff publish their annual report today for the period 1 September 2017 to 31 August 2018. The report highlights their concern at the increase in levels of self-harm and violence during their reporting period, though monitors noted that these were at a lower level than similar prisons and that there had been effective action to reverse the trend in self harm. “Although our report includes some serious concerns, we have seen some very positive developments within the prison since our last report,” commented Board Chair, Jaci Rankmore.
Staffing levels had increased over the year, enabling the prison to return to a full regime of education and training. Increased staffing levels had also allowed a Keyworker scheme to be introduced, giving officers on the wings slots of time in which to support individual prisoners in their rehabilitation. A programme of refurbishment began on the wings, but there continued to be issues with maintenance. A lack of heating was a major problem in areas of the prison throughout the winter. There were also issues with some showers which were either out of use or had no hot water, sometimes for a period of weeks.
Of major concern was the number of men who were being released without settled accommodation. “Settled accommodation is a key factor in rehabilitation and preventing re-offending, “explained Ms Rankmore. “We undertook sampling and a high proportion of men being released on a given day had no accommodation to go to and this was happening during an extremely cold winter. Many who said they had accommodation were going to “sofa surf” or go into temporary hostel accommodation.”
The Board also had serious concerns in relation to mental health care within the prison because of understaffing in the mental health team. The length of waiting times for appointments resulted in many men with mental health issues being released from prison without ever being seen. This inability to provide support had a significant effect on levels of self-harm and violence within the prison.
We want to emphasise, however,” stated Ms Rankmore, “that despite our concerns, these could have been much more serious without the commitment and hard work of staff and management. Our report describes some very positive progress and many concerns were a result of factors outside the prison’s control, such as resourcing and external contracts.”