Prisons inspectors concerned at prolonged pandemic restrictions on inmates at HMP Onley - The Rugby Observer

Prisons inspectors concerned at prolonged pandemic restrictions on inmates at HMP Onley

Rugby Editorial 3rd Jul, 2020   0

PRISONS inspectors are concerned about the impact of prolonged pandemic restrictions at HMP Onley.

Inspectors visited the prison near Rugby last month, together with two other category C men’s prisons (Brinsford in Staffordshire and Maidstone in Kent), and found even ‘modest local initiatives’ to allow more time out of cell were frustrated by national guidelines and the concerns of staff associations.

Peter Clarke, HM Chief Inspector of Prisons, said little had changed since the first set of visits in early May, and Onley held many frustrated category D prisoners who needed to move to an open prison.

He said: “Managers had taken effective measures to contain the spread of Covid-19 and were maintaining regime restrictions.”

Inspectors found effective partnership working at all sites to deliver reduced health care services and manage the response to the virus.

But he continued: “Staff and prisoners were becoming concerned about the impact that such a prolonged restricted regime was having on prisoners’ well-being. Levels of self-harm varied across the three prisons. We were concerned that there were no systematic welfare checks in place at Onley to identify any decline in prisoners’ mood.

At all three prisons, inmates were unlocked for no more than an hour each day.

The report noted: “At all three sites, some 12 weeks into very restrictive measures, prisoners were desperate to hear about restrictions being eased but the governors were unable to provide any reassurance.

Mr Clarke added: “Some managers had actively considered options to improve the very limited time out of cell or create additional physical education sessions, but had not felt able to do so due to national guidelines and the concerns of staff associations.

“Only Brinsford and Onley provided physical education sessions, and at Onley these took place during the same period of unlock allocated for showers and phone calls.”

The report also stated education providers were no longer on site, and attempts to provide in-cell education had not proved effective, though inspectors found good efforts to get some of the prisoners out to work.

The suspension of visits continued to affect many prisoners and HM Prison and Probation Service had still not provided video calling at the three sites.

Overall, Mr Clarke said: “Although all three prisons remained stable, this report illustrates some of the emerging frustrations and concerns felt by both staff and prisoners about the cumulative impact of restricted regimes.

“Given that the spread of Covid-19 has been well contained in these prisons, I am disappointed and concerned that at this stage even the most modest local initiatives from governors, which in their view could be safely implemented to increase time out of cell, had for whatever reason been frustrated.”

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