Main findings for the period 1st September 2015 to 31st August 2016:
Cuts in staffing and general expenditure have continued to affect many areas within the prison. The fabric of the buildings is frequently not fit for purpose. Some communal areas have leaking roofs and have had to be closed. Many showers are in a dilapidated state and many without any disability aids. Hot water boilers are frequently out of commission.
Of greater concern, however, is the effect of regular understaffing. We frequently find that many officers feel demoralised and complain that they are not sufficiently resourced or supported for the many challenges that they face daily. Staffing shortages inevitably lead to a greatly increased number of lock-downs and a more authoritarian regime. This in turn erodes relationships with the offenders. They feel that they are being denied the opportunities to progress in addressing their original offending behaviour. The well-equipped workshops and training facilities are under-used frequently because there are not enough staff to take offenders to work.
The IMB recognizes that HMP Channings Wood, and the Prison Service generally, have to shoulder the cuts in expenditure imposed on other public sector services. But we are convinced that fostering a repressive regime at the expense of rehabilitation is ultimately counter-productive.
Channings Wood became a ‘No Smoking Prison’ in May 2016 which appears to have led to an increase in illegal alcohol production. The widespread use of new psychoactive substances, such as the cannabis substitute “Spice”, and also of serious incidents of self-harm, all add to the general workload of overstretched staff. Rolling out the smoking ban over the whole country will, it is anticipated, alleviate the particular problems faced by this prison.
Looking ahead, it is hoped that the recently announced improvements to staffing in prisons will go some way to restoring a more co-operative and productive atmosphere at HMP Channings Wood.