With just under 50% of the 1220-strong population at HMP Littlehey aged 50 years and over, the Independent Monitoring Board (IMB) at the prison – made up of volunteers appointed by Minister to ensure prisoners are treated humanely – is disappointed to relate in its latest annual report a decrease in activities aimed specifically at this population.
The Cambridgeshire prison holds the largest concentration of this age group of prisoners but they are penalised compared to younger prisoners by having restricted access to work to supplement their small prison pension. They also experience difficulties accessing the 1st floor healthcare when the lift is inoperable for long periods of time; and the general limited access to routine hospital appointments has a greater impact on the older population compared to the younger.
IMB Chair Harry Chandler comments “Compared to a typical ‘local prison’ of a similar size, HMP Littlehey is safe and decent, and the board acknowledge the successful social care provision and the compassionate approach to end-of-life care, however, we are disappointed with the lack of suitable facilities specifically designed to help rehabilitate the older prisoners. Effectively, it is a ‘double sentence’ for these men.”
HMP Littlehey is the country’s largest prison for men convicted of sexual offences; however the Board is frustrated to report the woefully small amount of men who are able to access an intervention programme to help them reduce their risk. Together with the lack of resource for specific resettlement services, the board is dissatisfied with the help these men receive to become better citizens on release.
Aware of the disparities between similar prisons, the Board calls on the Ministry of Justice to develop national standards for OAPs and prisoners convicted of sexual offences in order to end the postcode lottery of rehabilitation and resettlement initiatives.
The collapse of external contractor Carillion in January 2018 led to the formation of new company called Government Facilities Services Limited; however the Board regrets to report there has been no improvement in quality or in the number of outstanding maintenance jobs, at times affecting the decency that the Board normally associates with this prison.
Independent prison monitoring builds on a long history where representatives of the community have access to go behind locked doors to ensure the humane treatment and conditions for prisoners is maintained. The role is as important today as it was when the first visiting committees were set up in Victorian times. For more information about the role or to apply to become a monitor at Littlehey prison please visit www.imb.org.uk
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Note to Editors
• The IMB’s brief is to monitor day to day life in the prison and to ensure that proper standards of care and decency are maintained behind locked doors. Members of the IMB are permitted to visit any part of the prison at any time to talk to prisoners and staff to monitor conditions. Part of their requirement is to produce an Annual Report for the Secretary of State for Justice.