IMB calls for action on fairness of treatment of prisoners at Swinfen Hall

The Independent Monitoring Board (IMB) for HMP & YOI Swinfen Hall near Lichfield has today (10 September 2019) raised concerns over prisoner treatment.

In its Annual Report for the period 1 May 2018 – 30 April 2019, the Board calls for action to be taken by Ministers, the Prison Service and the Governor in response to:

  • concerns about the fair treatment of black, Asian, and minority ethnic (BAME) prisoners, and younger offenders. For BAME prisoners, there were higher rates of adjudications (ie decisions taken against prisoners for inappropriate behaviour); lower rates of employment within the prison; higher rates of confinement in the Care and Separation (segregation) Unit (CSU); and fewer prisoners awarded Earned Privileges.  Younger Offenders (18-21-year-olds) are more likely to be in the CSU and are more likely to self-harm;
  • concerns over the humane treatment of prisoners include deficiencies in care for prisoners who self-harm and those who choose to self-isolate; the absence of healthcare professionals from some prisoner reviews; delays in transferring prisoners who are sufficiently rehabilitated to move to an open prison; maintenance shortfalls; failure to look after prisoners’ property; and a poorly executed major refurbishment contract. The IMB raised most of these issues in its previous (2018) Annual Report;
  • inadequate preparation for prisoner release. Too few prisoners participate in purposeful activity, such as education or employment, needed to prepare them for release. Specifically, there are deficiencies in the provision of distance learning; cancellation of library sessions; the absence of the National Careers Service, and late completion of their sentence plans. Resettlement prisons are accessed by only a minority of prisoners. Again, the IMB raised these issues in its 2018 Annual Report.

The Board welcomed:

  • increases in the time prisoners spent on activities and education;
  • improved support for prisoners with trauma-related mental health problems; and
  • better educational performance in English and mathematics.

The IMB Chair for Swinfen Hall, Stella Bridle, commented:

“It is disappointing that several major issues raised by the IMB last year have not been addressed. We urge the Minister, the Prison Service, and the Governor to take our concerns seriously, and to act upon them.

“That said, we recognise that there have been some improvements. We are pleased to note that there have been positive changes in regime restrictions, so that prisoners have more time to socialise or exercise and attend education and workshops.  We also welcome the provision of psychological support for prisoners who have been abused or suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorders (PTSD).  Controlled medication is now issued in a more timely manner, and there has been significant improvement in educational performance in English and Mathematics.’

She added: “We appreciate that the Prison Service, like all public services, operates within a framework of constraints.  Swinfen Hall is no different. But it is within all our interests to do all we can to ensure that prisoners benefit from whatever rehabilitation is on offer to reduce the risk of re-offending when they have served their sentences.”