“Many aspects of the “temporary” restricted regime introduced in September 2013 are still in place four and a half years later, despite repeated assurances from respective Ministers that the staffing situation is being addressed.”
The Independent Monitoring Board at HMP/YOI Isis today publishes its 2017 Annual Report. The Board’s main message – as it was in 2015 and 2016 – is that the prison is failing to fulfil its primary role to train and rehabilitate prisoners. The Board is concerned that the ‘temporary’ prison regime, still in place after four and half years, does not facilitate improvement and prepare the men for release.
Ministers have given repeated assurances in recent years that 2,500 extra staff were being recruited across the country’s prisons to deal with the staffing crisis. But in 2017 HMP/YOI Isis the staffing crisis worsened with a further 10% drop in prison officer numbers.
Concerns raised in the 2017 Annual Report are:
- High levels of violence – incidents of assaults on prisoners up by over 40% and assaults on staff up by 20% from 2016 figures. The nature of the violence is more targeted with drugs, debts and gang-related bullying frequently behind assaults.
- Drug usage remains high with Spice appearing to be the “drug of choice” and an increasing use of cannabis. In late 2017 there were between 30 and 50 instances each month of drug use with many prisoners requiring medical attention and drug debts increasing.
- Time out of cell – prisoners are locked in their cells for too many hours, with no evening association and periods of between 25 hours and 28 hours locked in cells on weekends, contributing to poor attendance at education and training. Attendance is typically 100 of the 600 prisoners.
The Board has again urged the minister:
- That staff numbers be returned to the agreed levels, not simply by hiring new officers but also by implementing strategies to retain and motivate existing staff, and
- To give serious and urgent consideration to the plight of those prisoners with mental health illnesses detained in HMP/YOI Isis inappropriately when they should be being treated intensively by mental health professionals in a different setting.
The Board is encouraged by the many initiatives introduced by the Governor, including recently taking responsibility for the local recruitment of prison officers. It is to be hoped that a full training regime will be implemented during 2018.
The full report will be published at www.imb.org.uk/reports/
Information for Editors
HMP/YOI Isis – named after the River Thames – opened in July 2010. It is a public sector training prison for sentenced men, with a mix of young prisoners between the ages of 18 and 21, and Category C adult prisoners. It is situated in Thamesmead in South-East London. The maximum population it can safely and decently hold is 628.
Every prison in the country has an Independent Monitoring Board. Members are appointed from a wide variety of backgrounds by the Secretary of State for Justice to act independently as the eyes and ears of Ministers and the general public. They have unlimited access to the prison; they routinely check the buildings, the administration, the regime and the treatment of prisoners; and they hear prisoner complaints. They are unpaid. Each Board reports annually to the Secretary of State.