Concern about impact of widespread use of Psychoactive Substances at HMP Haverigg

In their latest annual report the IMB at HMP Haverigg says there is continuing concern about the impact of widespread use of Psychoactive Substances (PS), not only with respect to those addicted to its use but on the general prison population, staff and also on the overall regime.

Risk to life
It is disturbing to note in two reports from the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman that PS may have been a contributory factor in two deaths in custody which occurred during the year within weeks of each other. Near fatalities in the latter half of the year have only been prevented by the swift and effective action of officers and healthcare staff.

Increased surveillance systems initially disrupted the supply chain of illicit drugs into the prison, but access to PS resumed, despite the best efforts of the management. The IMB Chair explains “The Board has observed on a weekly and sometimes daily basis, the effects of the use of illicit substances, and on one day in November, when seventeen prisoners were found to be under the influence of PS in a ‘mass intoxication’ The impact on the populations of South and West Cumbria of the concentration of Northwest Ambulances at the prison throughout that day is likely to have been significant”.

“Emotional challenges”
The geographical isolation of HMP Haverigg, the limitations of public transport and an underdeveloped road network present both practical and emotional challenges to prisoners and their families in maintaining links. However, the Board commends the innovative work of the “Visitors and Children’s Support Group” in hosting a range of events for Families, Lifer/Long term prisoners, Enhanced prisoners, and the Kainos “Challenge to Change” programme.

Although tackling the use of PS and other illicit substances, has, necessarily, been of high priority throughout the reporting year, the Board has, nonetheless, observed the good progress and positive impact of the Rehabilitative Culture initiative on the prison population.

Key report findings:
  • Are prisoners treated fairly?
    The effectiveness of the Rehabilitative Culture and Restorative Justice initiatives have had a significant impact on the outcome of adjudications with the IMB receiving just two applications from prisoners arising from this process. The Independent Monitoring Board is of the view that prisoners are treated fairly.
  • Are prisoners treated humanely?
    The Board is of the opinion that the prison continues to have an emphasis on humane treatment and has regularly observed sensitive and respectful interaction between staff and prisoners. However, there have been occasions when some prisoners have had to endure unacceptable and adverse living conditions,
  • Are prisoners prepared well for their release?
    The Board has received a large number of applications from prisoners relating to sentence management and of these a third concerned preparations for release including accommodation, approved premises, bank accounts, support services and medication, for example. The Board is concerned that lack of preparation and resources to support prisoners in the community after release may increase the risk of re-offending.

Read the report in full here.