The riot at Birmingham prison is yet more evidence of the concerns expressed by a number of Independent Monitoring Boards (IMBs) about the rising level of violence in our prisons. IMBs have over the last three or four years regularly questioned staffing levels and regimes across many establishments. ‘IMBs are perturbed that their dedication to the monitoring role on a weekly basis is frustrated by a failure to respond to the issues raised at a national level in their Annual reports’, said John Thornhill, the President of the National Council of Independent Monitoring Boards. The Annual Report for Birmingham published in July this year began:
‘It is the Board’s view, echoed by prison staff, that there are insufficient staff numbers to deal with many of the day to day situations that occur in a local prison. The Board would therefore welcome a review of the level of staffing considered appropriate in the contract, which recognises recent changes in prisoner behaviour such that the prison is not able to guarantee provision of all facilities to all prisoners.
As with the last reporting period, serious incidents of violence have increased over the course of the last twelve months.’
The low staffing levels mean that prisoners are denied their rightful access to a range of facilities; they become frustrated, tension and violence increase and become more widespread. The result, as we have seen in recent weeks, is an increase in riots that damage the system and individuals. The impact of this unrestrained violence is that a large number of prisoners have to be transferred to other prisons that are already stretched with their own problems and staffing issues.
Notes to editors:
- Independent Monitoring Boards provide a weekly monitoring presence in every prison in England and Wales.
- They have a duty to inform the Secretary of State of any concern they have and to report annually to the Secretary of State on how well the establishment has met the standards and requirements placed on it and what impact these have on those in custody.
- John Thornhill is the President of the National Council of Independent Monitoring Boards.
- IMB reports are available in the reports section.