Tuesday, 23 April 2019

Prison criticised over support for inmates

CONCERNS have been raised over the support available to prisoners at HMP Huntercombe in Nuffield for the second year running.

The prison’s independent monitoring board recognises that while improvements have been made, these efforts have not been “properly resourced”.

It comes two years after Darius Lasinkas, 26, hanged himself in his cell after he was told he would see out his four-and-a-half-year sentence in his native Lithuania.

HMP Huntercombe has housed only category C foreign national prisoners since 2012.

In its annual report published this week, the board said it was “concerned” at the “continued lack of national resettlement support for offenders”.

The report continued: “The board raised this matter in its 2016 report. HMP Huntercombe responded positively and increased support from within its budget. However, the Ministry of Justice has not increased its overall budget for this area to be properly resourced.

Neither has it levelled the field in terms of treating foreign national offenders equally with UK national prisoners in relation to the provision of resettlement support and preparation for release from prison.”

The board was also concerned with the organisation and management of prisoner property.

It said many of the complaints raised related to when property was mislaid or lost when prisoners were transferred to Huntercombe.

This issue was “aggravated” by differences between state-run and privately run prisons and the amount of property a prisoner is allowed to have.

The board also warned that the prison kitchen was not fit for purpose as it is expected to cater for 480 prisoners, about double the prison population from when it was first installed.

The report said: “The kitchen is cramped and cannot be laid out, organised and equipped to efficiently operate.

“Additionally, there has been a number of equipment failures during the reporting period that have further impacted effective operation.”

The report said the flooring was in a “parlous state” with seams and joists having split open in many places, creating a trip hazard.

There had also been issues with blocked drains throughout the year and there was no sluice in the kitchen to dispose of waste water.

The board also found “repeated issues” with hot water for showers and the heating breaking down due to leaks in the external pipework.

There have also been breakdowns of tumble dryers, washing machines and dishwashers and their subsequent repair were “greatly protracted” due to the time-consuming process of reporting a fault.

The report also praised the prison for its “fair and humane” treatment of prisoners and staff were commended for keeping the prison in a high state of cleanliness.

John Evans, who chairs the board, said: “Overall, the board is content that the prison is well-run and that prisoners are treated fairly and humanely within the prison.

“Huntercombe does not experience high levels of violence and disorderly conduct that are reported in the press concerning other prisons.”

A Prison Service spokesman said: “The Independent Monitoring Board rightly acknowledges that the prison continues to fulfil its duty of care in keeping prisoners safe and that staff are working hard to keep the prison clean.

“The prison has recently started work to increase the capacity of the kitchen so that it better matches the population size.”

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