Staff resources at HMP Stocken remain too tightly stretched and the Rutland prison continues to face the scourge of drugs, claims the Independent Monitoring Board in its annual report.
The IMB at Stocken – a category C training prison holding more than 800 prisoners, most serving sentences between four years and life – says it is disappointed that a previous report a year ago to the then Prisons Minister Andrew Selous urging a review of staffing levels has not led to real change.
The IMB is made up of local people acting as independent monitors and its chairman Mike Siswick said paring resources to the bone affects the ability of the prison staff to provide a safe, secure and positive environment.
He said: “This continuing failure to provide at least an optimum, rather than a barely minimum level of resource could be construed as suggesting that stated ministerial intentions that prisoners should be able to better themselves in preparation for release are, in fact, merely aspirational and that real delivery intent remains lacking.”
During the period covered by the report there was a riot in June 2015 and one wing, which was severely damaged, was put out of action.
Mr Siswick said ironically this led to staffing problems being lessened, as the officers allocated to that wing were redeployed elsewhere.
The IMB is now calling for a substantative response, calling on the Prisons Minister to specify what action will be taken to address the staffing levels. The board also wants to see a contingency plan to cater for the unforeseen.
The report also claims that the lack of resources excarbates the problems caused by drugs, especially novel psychoactive substances (NPS).
Mr Siswick said more needed to be done in relation to drug testing and in the IMB’s last report, it called on ministers to provide funding for drug testing kits for NPS.
Mr Siswick said that failure to invest the necessary resources to defeat this scourge means a continuance of problems and greater cost in the longer term.
Another issue highlighted by the report concerns the remittance of money to prisoners. Under present arrangements quite substantial sums can be sent in to the prison. These sums are held in accounts by the prison authorities on behalf of prisoners.
Prisoners may use these funds, together with their prison earnings, to purchase permitted items. But holding large sums for prisoners can heighten tensions and means items can be purchased and either sold or traded for services, including violence.
The report calls on far stricter limits on the amounts and frequency for remitting money to prisoners.
The Stocken report also raises concerns about the limited number of meaningful work opportunities for prisoners, leading to qualifications and real job opportunities upon release.
“The prison itself is to be commended upon the success it has had in getting prisoners to engage in education and work whilst serving their sentences.
“However not all of the available work is challenging or will lead to external employment on release,” said Mr Siswick.
But overall, despite these concerns, Stocken Prison remains in line with previous reports a generally well managed and efficient establishment, where prisoners are treated fairly.