HMP Belmarsh: some improvements but major safety and decency concerns remain

In its annual report for 2018-19, the Belmarsh IMB – made up of volunteers appointed by Ministers to ensure prisoners are treated fairly and humanely – highlights the following concerns:

  • The growing influence of gangs within the prison is a major concern.  This is an increasing problem for the Governor and his staff who work hard to keep all prisoners safe. Conflicts between members of different gangs also reduce the amount of work and educational activity which some prisoners can undertake.
  • The continuing widespread practice of accommodating three men in cells designed for two people is unacceptable.  It is of great concern that no progress has been made on reducing the occupancy back to two-man cells.
  • The state of the showers and many of the toilets across the prison is appalling. It is a disgrace that despite a funding programme being available from 2017, work continues to be delayed.

The Board is pleased with the positive developments including:

  • The progress made this year to recognise and manage equalities issues.
  • The increased staffing levels which are enabling a more consistent regime for prisoners.

The IMB Chair, Andrea Gillespie, said:

“Maintaining a safe environment for prisoners and staff continues to be paramount. We have particular concerns about the influence that gang members try to exert over fellow prisoners and recognise the difficult job the prison has to keep everyone safe.  We are exasperated that once again we have to report on the delayed refurbishment of many of the showers and toilets, which are in an appalling state.  Yet again we criticise the accommodation of three men in cells meant for two prisoners as totally unacceptable.  These are just a few of the serious issues that the prison has to manage.  We recognise and commend the efforts of the Governor and his staff in caring for the very complex prison population at Belmarsh.”