HMP Gartree struggled with 'most basic' tasks, says report

Gartree Prison Image copyright Google
Image caption HMP Gartree houses almost 700 inmates serving long-term or indeterminate sentences

A troubled prison had struggled to maintain the "most basic" of activities, according to a report.

The Independent Monitoring Board (IMB) has raised concerns about wellbeing at HMP Gartree in Leicestershire.

The board blamed problems at the Category B prison, which houses almost 700 inmates, on staff shortages - which was also a concern in 2018.

The Prison Service said "in difficult circumstances" it was "working hard to improve the wellbeing for prisoners".

The report found staff shortages led to wing lockdowns which were "poorly managed" that caused a "great deal of unrest" among prisoners.

These lockdowns disrupted healthcare needs, education, work, telephone calls and even the kitchen.

The report said: "The board wonders how it was that the prison allowed itself to be in such a position that it was unable to provide enough cover to operate the most basic of regimes which allow prison life to continue."

Image copyright PA
Image caption Prisoners were allowed to experience falconry displays and a pet corner on "family days"

It was also concerned the environment was not suitable for prisoners with mental health issues.

There were 427 incidents relating to self-harm in 2018, suggesting inmates' problems were "not adequately addressed or not supported through interventions".

After a critical report in March 2018, the latest review - covering December 2017 to November 2018 - did find steps had been taken to improve the situation.

Inmates at the prison enjoyed falconry displays, pet corners and food of their choice on "family days".

Other areas highlighted

  • Sixty-one assaults on staff last year and 79 assaults between prisoners
  • A growing trend in illicitly brewed alcohol
  • Illegal drugs
  • The Segregation Unit remains inadequate and "unhealthy" for staff and prisoners
  • The high number of men with complex mental health needs
  • Prisoners not being better prepared for release

The IMB also commended the prison for its work accommodating a transgender prisoner and providing those observing Ramadan with in-cell microwaves to eat at their convenience.

It was also praised for two work programmes - one to renovate abandoned bicycles for resale by the Sue Ryder charity and another with Leicestershire Police.

"The industries staff are to be congratulated on creating socially useful work opportunities such as these," the report said.

The IMB concluded by calling on the government to review staffing and healthcare there, and suggested it becomes a pilot site for healthcare monitoring.

The Prison Service said: "The governor at Gartree is working hard to reduce violence and improve the wellbeing for prisoners.

"All prison officers are fitted with body worn cameras with the most violent prisoners being given one-to-one support to help manage their behaviour. Work is ongoing to identify and support those offenders at risk of self-harm."

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