In its 2018 annual report published today, the Highpoint Independent Monitoring Board (IMB) – made up of volunteers appointed by Ministers to ensure prisoners are treated humanely – notes that:
- there has been a substantial rise in staffing levels, which has had a positive impact on the regime
- the prison has a strong commitment towards humane treatment of the men in its care
- preparation for release has improved; Prisoners have the opportunity to enrol on courses which will prepare them for the job market.
However, the Board is concerned about:
- the availability and use of new psychoactive substances (‘Spice’) which has proved problematic, because it disrupts the regime whilst staff deal with prisoners who are ‘under the influence’
- the welfare of a small number of prisoners who are self-segregating on the wings because of fear of bullying or debt or due to drug-related problems
- a backlog of repairs following the 2017 collapse of maintenance company Carillion which impacts on the day-to-day regime and leads to delays in repairing plumbing and kitchen equipment.
IMB Chair, Susan Feary said:
“There is no doubt that in some areas within the prison there have been significant improvements – the staffing increases have made a real difference to most prisoners’ safety and to the rehabilitation support provided to prepare men for release.
“We remain concerned about the use of drugs, in particular Spice, which can cause problems not just for those using it directly but for the other prisoners and staff due to the effect of its fumes.
“There also much more to be done to fix equipment and building repairs – there is still an unacceptable backlog and poor central leadership from the government company which took over from Carillion.”