Inadequate staffing is damaging morale and relationships with prisoners at Bullingdon

Staff shortages are damaging morale, eroding relationships with prisoners and may relate to a rise in violence and indiscipline within the prison, according to The Independent Monitoring Board (IMB) at HMP Bullingdon.

The Board is concerned about increasing difficulties in recruiting and retaining sufficient officers to maintain levels defined as acceptable by the Prison Service. It has also observed that indiscipline and violence have increased noticeably since staff cutbacks wre implemented in 2013.

The prison’s effective and efficient functioning has been affected substantially also by the performance of outside contractors. Service levels provided by Carillion in the Works area have been far from satisfactory and this has caused significant difficulties for the prison’s staff. Delays in carrying out repairs and work projects have a negative impact on safety, decency and the development of rehabilitative services.

The difficulties faced by Bullingdon have been made worse by the high rate of ‘churn’ where prisoners are transferred in and out of the prison at short notice. This continues undiminished because the proportion of remand and short-stay prisoners remains high. In addition, substance abuse is still a significant contributory factor in reported rising levels of violence by prisoners.

However, officers continue to show professionalism and commitment towards developing a rehabilitative culture and their skilled interactions with some of the most volatile prisoners have been observed on many occasions.

Other issues highlighted in the report covering the period from 1st August 2015 to 31st July 2016 include:

  • The allocation of work and poor attendance at education impacting on prisoner rehabilitation.
  • Prisoners whose first language is not English receiving inadequate access to effective interpreting/translation services.
  • The lack of consistency in good practice in the use of Assessment, Care in Custody, and Teamwork (ACCT) documents.
  • Some vulnerable prisoners being placed in inappropriate accommodation which means they cannot follow a normal regime.
  • Delays in both case processing and sentence planning.

However, prisoners have benefited from positive improvements and examples of good practice. These include:

  • Family days for prisoners.
  • Wing-based offender management unit (OMU) surgeries.
  • Awareness-raising sessions for staff to which prisoners contribute
  • Cooperation with outside bodies.

The Board dealt with a total of 792 applications during 2015/16 and carried out 465 visits.

Paul Miller, Chair of IMB Bullingdon, said: ‘The Board has highlighted for the Minister the fact that it has become increasingly difficult to maintain staffing at levels defined as acceptable by the Prison Service.

‘This difficulty has had a detrimental effect on the quantity and quality of the interactions of staff with individual prisoners, and may relate to the rise in violence and indiscipline.

‘The Board has also asked the Prison Service to outline what substantive changes it will require of Carillion. These changes are essential if the contractor is to remedy unacceptable failures in addressing serious shortcomings in the levels of service it provides to HMP Bullingdon.’