Good work is being done in HMP Leicester, but the safety and decency of the establishment is being undermined by poor living and working conditions. This is the conclusion of the Independent Monitoring Board whose report for the 12 month period ending January 31st 2019 is published today.
The report confirms that the establishment dealt well with some very challenging prisoners during 2018. Rates of self-harm and violence increased from 2017 levels, but both were well managed, and order and control was good. Fewer staff were assaulted. There was an impressive reduction in the supply and use of illicit drugs, as a result of increased security measures in the establishment, particularly during visits, and the screening of all incoming mail by a Rapiscan device.
IMB Leicester also believes that prisoners are treated fairly and with respect. There is a predictable regime, time out of cell is reasonable and prisoner consultation is good. Opportunities for purposeful activity improved during 2018, with the opening of a new workshop for ‘handyman’ training. The report also details the good working partnerships which have continued between the prison and the community.
There were considerable staffing challenges in 2018, because a number of very experienced staff, including the Governor, transferred to other establishments, and new officers arrived to support the Offender Management in Custody reforms. The Senior Management Team worked hard to provide continuity of service, and the very good supportive and constructive interactions between staff and prisoners remain a strength of the establishment under the leadership of the energetic new Governor.
However, the very poor and deteriorating state of the living and working environment has given the Board great cause for concern. IMB Chair Irene Peat said ‘In our report we have described in detail the rapid pace of dilapidations in this Victorian establishment. There has been failure to invest sufficient capital funds over many years, and the situation has been made worse by poor delivery of the maintenance and repair contract by Amey.
‘The Board considers that significant capital investment is needed to repair leaking roofs, poorly fitting windows, and defective floors, the failing heating system and boiler, and the old unreliable kitchen equipment. We have urged the Prisons Minister to provide the funding required to bring the establishment up to a decent standard.’
IMB Leicester comprises 15 unpaid public appointees, who made a total of 324 visits to the prison in 2018. Members monitor day-to-day life within the establishment and thus have a unique role among the organisations that scrutinise the Prison Service.
The full report can be accessed on www.imb.org.uk/reports/
Information for Editors:
Independent Monitoring Boards (IMBs) monitor fairness and respect for people in custody to confirm it is fair, just and humane. IMBs are made up of independent public appointees and operate in every prison and Immigration Removal Centre. For more information about IMBs see www.imb.org.uk