Insights into the safety and well being for inmates in Hewell Prison Worcestershire are now on the rise as numbers show a significant rise in self harming cases.
Monitors have said that the numbers increasing within the inmates is “stubbornly high” and the IMB said it was concerned at-risk prisoners at HMP Hewell may not be being identified in time, under a restricted regime due to the pandemic.
The Worcestershire category B prison houses up to 900 inmates and insights had said that conditions had improved during the pandemic.
However, now we are seeing a drastic change within the well-being of the inmates. The Prison has been part of the Prison Performance Support Programme, a replacement for the special measures the prison was placed in back in 2018. The prison had an “effective” response to the pandemic, but conditions were still a concern, a spokesman said.
It was seen that there were 359 incidents of self-harming between 1 March and 30 September 2020, which showed 1 in 6.7 of the prison population, the IMB said in its annual report, meaning that equated to 49% of all healthcare responses during the six months.
Prisoners unable to access showers for weeks.
In September, the chief inspector of prisons said conditions were “wholly unacceptable” with social distancing restrictions leaving some prisoners without access to a shower or fresh air for weeks.
While inmates had to be kept safe, the overall damage to their broader welfare cannot be underestimated, the IMB said.
The chief inspector of prisons found HMP Hewell in Redditch “could not be safe”, with almost a third of inmates saying they felt at risk.
In a report, HM Inspectorate of Prisons found social distancing restrictions had left some prisoners without access to a shower or fresh air for weeks.
Mr Clarke said “little progress” had been made in the five months since lockdown restrictions were announced to ensure prisoners had sufficient time outdoors and meaningful activity.
“This contributed to prisoners’ frustration and potentially to a deterioration in mental and emotional well-being,” inspectors said, with 70% of inmates reporting problems with their mental health.
Reports also found that inmates with impaired mobility “who had not had time in the fresh air for weeks and who experienced particular difficulty in accessing showers regularly”. Some, who were isolating, had gone without a shower for 14 days.
It was said that prisoners felt “unsafe” due to the “lack of consistent attention to social distancing” and although the distancing rules would “inevitably reduce” violence, incidents at the prison remained “comparatively high – particularly against staff”.
In its annual report on the category B jail, the monitoring board said it had concerns about the frequency with which prisoners resorted to self-harm as a means of getting attention or treatment.
“Board members observe an almost insatiable demand for mental health care, with very limited resources available to meet it,” the report said.
Staff were “largely inexperienced and often young” and working in “frequently unsafe circumstances”.
Board members discussed “The question remains as to whether, with the restricted regime, prisoners at risk of suicide or self-harm are pre-emptively identified before an incident takes place.” There is concern that measures will “cause collateral damage to prisoners’ broader welfare, rehabilitation, sentence management and, crucially, their mental health”.
What now for HMP Hewell?
IMB Hewell Chair Rodger Lawrence said: “The local community should be very proud of how the staff at HMP Hewell responded to the pandemic.
“Not only were they responding to the national emergency, but they had a new Governor determined to raise standards and bring the prison into the 21st century.
“When the board members returned to the prison after the first lockdown they were impressed with the improvements.”
A prison spokesperson said: “Drugs fuel self-harm and violence and we know the new security measures at Hewell are already having a positive impact.”