Safety concerns at HMP Haverigg, Cumbria


  • The combination of reduced staff resources and the loss of experienced officers with the tension of increased use of illegal drugs has been a major focus of concern to the IMB.
  • The board has seen evidence that illicit drug use by prisoners leads in turn to debt, bullying and violence; some of a serious sexual nature.
  • There remains difficulty in obtaining timely access to secure mental health care provision for prisoners with severe acute problems who may need to be cared for under the Mental Health Act. Prisoners suffering mental health crises in prison should be able to access the same provision as the wider community.

Independent monitors at HMP Haverigg have expressed concern at the impact of major organisational change on prisoners, staff and the overall regime occurring as a consequence of unprecedented levels of violence, bullying, sexual assault and drug misuse.

In their annual report published this week the IMB says that in October 2016 the Operational Capacity of the prison was reduced from 654 to 286 and three out of the seven accommodation units were closed. Prisoners had expressed their concerns to the IMB about their safety on these units.

Despite the best efforts of the local police and prison security staff, prisoners have been able to access destructive quantities of so-called “legal high” drugs. This relatively new phenomena, with its associated debt levels, bullying and sexual violence, and the pressure its use has placed on the Healthcare staff, has been a highly damaging ‘game- changer’ leading to the inevitable closure of unsuitable billeted accommodation.

Organisational and regime change, which ran concurrently with the phased reduction in prisoner numbers, placed significant pressures on the establishment. The monitors have acknowledged the emphasis on prisoner and staff welfare and the clear leadership of the Governor and his team.

Humane treatment
The IMB report shows that prisoners in HMP Haverigg are treated fairly and that the prison has a positive emphasis on humane treatment.

The prison provides good training opportunities, often with associated qualifications, to equip prisoners with skills they need on release, But monitors are concerned that the morale of prisoners and staff in the award-winning Smokery has been adversely affected by the restructuring of the prison and the business is not now reaching its full potential.