HMP Birmingham’s Independent Monitoring Board is today releasing its annual report. The report reveals that the Board is impressed with the way many staff respond positively to and support the most difficult individuals in society, but notes there is much work to be done to ensure Birmingham Prison is safe, clean and efficient.
In particular the prison faces challenges to:
- successfully prevent drug ingress and abuse by prisoners which every day causes violence and bullying
- ensure prisoners have basic living standards, clean bedding, clothing, lighting, and no broken windows in cell
- provide quality rehabilitation support to men when nearly 20000 men pass through the prison in a year
- plan to support and retain staff at all grades affected by the relentless pressure the role absorbs
Roger Swindells, Chair of the Board, said “In Victorian times, prisons were designed to provide one cell for one man. So, of course, the Board is concerned that in 2017 two men are required to share a cell, eat their meals whilst sitting on a bed, and be sat next to an unscreened toilet that has no lid.”
The report also covers the period of the riot in December 2016. Whilst Board members did not foresee such an event occurring, members clearly outline in the report that the response by staff was exceptional, with many individuals carrying out acts of bravery that the Board feels should be recognised formally.
Addressing the issues highlighted in the report will be a challenge, but the Board believes the new senior managers are committed to resolving those challenges. However, some government policies make the challenges more onerous than they should be.
Chair, Roger Swindells, added that a multitude of issues affected by government policy clearly have an adverse effect on prisoners and staff at Birmingham Prison:
“Despite local efforts, a lack of a government led successful drugs prevention strategy results in inmate and staff safety being compromised daily. The Government cannot expect anything more than a “warehousing of men policy” with present levels of illicit drugs coming into the prison”.
However, the Board welcomes three significant new initiatives that will, provided the funding is made available, significantly benefit prisoner outcomes in the next twelve months.
Gary Holz, a senior Board Member, said;
“The size of the prison population in HMP Birmingham outstrips resources. The Government needs to tackle immediately the issue of overcrowding at Birmingham Prison. Squalid Victorian cells housing two men is not acceptable in 2017”.
Every prison in England and Wales has a volunteer IMB attached to it and among its duties is to produce an annual report which is sent to the Ministry of Justice. In this year’s report the IMB at Birmingham Prison has requested a response from Prison’s Minister, Sam Gyimah, asking what effective action the Government is taking, or planning, to address the issues affecting prisoner outcomes which the Board has identified.
The full report can be downloaded here.