In its 2019/20 Annual Report published today, the Independent Monitoring Board at HMP Woodhill finds that some progress was made in 2019, achieving the change from a local prison to holding long term prisoners, but faced significant challenges during in the year to May 2020. In addition the Covid 19 pandemic meant that:
- Prisoners were locked down and spent up to 23 hours a day in their cells. The prison managed the welfare of prisoners by lending DVD, Games and CD players, giving in-cell education and making welfare checks.
- All visitors and staff were given temperature checks on entry, new arrivals were quarantined, visits were stopped, everyone practised social distancing and it is a major success that there were no prisoners confirmed with Covid
- The Covid lockdown stopped much of the illegal drugs and phones coming in through the usual routes of visits and prisoners arriving, but packages thrown over the walls increased dramatically.
The Board raised a number of concerns in their report, and made recommendation to the Governor, the Prison Service and Ministers to address, including:
- Reducing delays in transferring prisoners to secure mental health facilities.
- Reviewing the property system to reduce delays in transportation, inconsistencies in entitlements and losses.
- Ensuring that prisoners are properly searched and transferred without contraband from one prison to another. Failure increases the already problematic level of drugs, phones and weapons in Woodhill.
- Reducing the levels of violence, self-harm and assaults both by prisoners on staff and by prisoners on other prisoners.
- Improving the management of long-term segregated prisoners, as despite the best efforts of prison staff, prisoners are held for months.
- Ensuring there is sufficient funding for works and maintenance.
- Too many staff were inexperienced meaning prisoners had problems getting simple problems resolved and their progression suffered. The prison management has strived to improve the running of the prison and there are some signs of progress.
The Chair of the Board said “Woodhill faced many problems in 2019/20 but has made some progress. The Covid emergency lockdown did not cause as much sickness as was feared. But there is still too much violence, too many illicit items and staff inexperience hampered prisoner progression.”
** Please also note that since publication an amendment has been made to Woodhill’s AR, due to incorrect data in 7.1 para 4. The amendement was made on 7 October 2020**