IMB reflects on major change in role of HMP Durham to reception prison

In its annual report for the period 2016/17 the IMB reports that the prison has adapted well to a major change in role to that of a reception prison. The Board reflects that whilst many issues have arisen, they have in the main been addressed effectively.

The planning for this change commenced at the beginning of our reporting year as it affected major areas of the prison, e.g. allocation of wings, reception, induction, video court, visitors centre, education.

Key findings:

John Davidson, IMB Chair, said “Within the annual reporting period, it is fair to say that the board’s overall view is that we are satisfied the fundamental areas of the prison are well managed, and prisoners are treated fairly and humanely.”

  1. As part of the move towards the reception prison, the Governor obtained extra funding which enabled him to tackle some of the issues highlighted by the Board last year, e.g.:
  • Old, unrepairable washing machines/dryers – all replaced and extra provided
  • Refurbishment of showers
  • Extra staffing

These issues were of major concern to the Board and it is pleasing that they have been addressed.

  1. The Board would like the Minister to look nationally at the issue of “overcrowding” in prisons. At HMP Durham, the majority of the cells are double occupancy and whilst the Board accepts that the operational capacity (OC) is legal, the Board feels that in the 21st Century, more effort should be made to provide single occupancy cells throughout the prison estate, improving the facilities offered and the decency afforded to the prisoners.
  2. Too much property gets lost between prisons.
  3. Delay in security clearance (3-4 months) is a significant issue in staff recruitment and contributes to the shortage of health care workers. This should be addressed and speeded up.
  4. Nurse staffing gives cause for concern and is regarded as a risk factor in the delivery of primary care.



  1. Arrangements for transgender individuals have been exemplary.
  2. Provision of in-cell telephones and tablet computers will encourage prisoners to develop their autonomy and IT skills.
  3. A new video link unit has been built with separate booths on the VP Wing and SACU. As a result, prisoners attend for their scheduled appearance for a limited time eliminating the previous long waits in a holding area.
  4. A new mental health observation and support unit is an exciting development with the potential, if successful, for becoming the prototype for similar units around the country. Early experience is promising.

John Davidson, IMB Chair, said “Our key priorities of observation monitoring include those held in segregation, healthcare, catering and reform programmes.”


Prison Key Aims 2018

Fully embed the concept of a reception prison, ensuring that men received from the courts we serve are provided with a decent level of care and respect.

Provide men with a safe, stable environment when they are first committed to custody, addressing all their immediate needs.

Whatever time period we have them, use it as an opportunity to commence some rehabilitative culture, encourage them to participate in work and education, building relationships with them and empowering them to use the opportunity presented by custody to build hope for the future and have chances for change.


IMB Key Objectives 2018

The prison has made the initial step in the change to a reception prison but now needs to ensure the changes are working effectively for the benefit of the prisoners and prison.

The Board will continue to monitor the ongoing transition especially in the areas of prisoner reception and induction, the regimes of the prisoners e.g. time out of cell, work, the provision of meaningful education, the preparing for transfer to other establishments in our Group e.g. Holme House.

John Davidson, IMB Chair, said “Our monitoring activity is carried out under the National Monitoring Framework, which covers the range of aspects that are required to ensure the prison functions to standards required.”

Read the report in full here.