EXTENSIVE PERIODS OF LOCKUP AND POOR ACCOMMODATION HIGHLIGHTED IN LEWES PRISON IMB REPORT
– welcome reduction in violence and self-harm
Frequent regime restrictions and lockdowns and poor accommodation, which often fails to be decent, and are two of the major issues outlined in the annual report of the Independent Monitoring Board (IMB) at HMP Lewes.
The Board highlights a number or concerns, as well as improvements over the reporting year:
- The daily regime offered to prisoners has declined further over the course of the reporting year and does not allow prisoners to be unlocked sufficiently. The numbers of planned and unplanned lockdowns increased and from March 2019 there were frequent weekend lockdowns too. This meant that prisoners who do not go to work or education are likely to be locked up for more than 22 hours a day
- The IMB regularly observes dirty wings, mouldy showers and filthy toilets, much of which being ingrained dirt which is uncleanable with the available products. Also, at times, the prison or the national prison service have failed to provide the prisoners with their basic entitlement, including shoes, blankets, furniture and crockery.
- The Board is concerned at the number of prisoners seen over the year who are seriously mentally unwell and kept in conditions, be it accommodation standards or the regime, which are entirely unsuitable for their care or rehabilitation. The same applies to many of the prisoners with learning or other disabilities.
- The IMB was however encouraged by an overall reduction in violence and in the number of incidents of self-harm during the year. The number of recorded assaults (prisoner on prisoner and prisoner on staff) was 236 which is 15 percent lower than the 278 recorded in 2018. The recorded number of self-harm incidents fell by 40 percent to 369 in 2019 compared with 600 in 2018.
- The Board still remains concerned about the safety of the prisoners at HMP Lewes. The availability of drugs, mobile phones and other illicit items affects the stability of the wings, with bullying and debt the main reasons for violence. However, positive steps have been taken by the prison in introducing improved equipment and increasing the numbers of dogs used to detect drugs. These, together with an increase in intelligence-led cell searches, resulted in 1,397 finds of illicit items in 2019.
“We are also concerned that the delivery of the Offender Management in Custody model has not being successfully implemented so far,” said Selena Bevis, Chair of the IMB at Lewes. “This model is supposed to ensure each prisoner is allocated a key worker on arrival who then supports them through the custodial period. However, the percentage of delivered key worker sessions was averaging only 15 percent.”
“However, this report covers the first year of the new Governor and the IMB recognises she has worked hard to improve the prison. Recently the Governor and her team have had to manage around the Covid-19 virus and this has been done effectively with no cases reported at HMP Lewes so far,” added Selena Bevis. “We also support a number of new initiatives, introduced during this virus period, around communications, telephony, pay and letters which, although small, have improved life for the prisoners when they are locked up for such long periods. We hope that as lockdown is eased in the community it was also be eased for prisoners.”