The Independent Monitoring Board at HMP/YOI Isis has today published its annual report for 2020. The prism of COVID-19 coloured most of the year and brought a range of changes to the regime.
This pandemic has had a substantial impact on prison life. It has led to:
- Prisoners being locked in their cells for 22 hours a day in December, an improvement on the 23.5 hours in the early days of lockdown.
- At the end of the year, education being mainly by in-cell packs with work opportunities being restricted.
- The inability to arrange examinations resulting in many prisoners being released during the year without gaining an accredited qualification.
- Most groups and group work for rehabilitation activities being stopped.
This has had a serious impact on prisoners; their wellbeing, their ability to work or learn, and their ability to prepare for their release.
- During the months of lockdown, violence reduced as the prisoners were locked in their cells for long periods of time, but towards the end of the year, there was a sharp rise in the number of incidents (though levels of violence were lower than previous years).
- The IMB continues to question whether prison is the right place for people with chronic enduring mental health issues or personality disorders.
- It is the IMB view that there needs to be research into the impact on prisoners’ mental health of these long periods of time spent in a cell.
IMB Isis Chair, Pauline Fellows, said:
“The Governor and her staff have worked hard to keep the prison Covid free and to help prisoners manage the long hours in their cells. But it is the IMB view that the prison needs to return to a full regime as soon as possible as lockdown restrictions are lifted in the community.”