Isle of Man News - POSTED Wed 05-10-2011

Island's prison criticised following inspection

by Tessa Hawley

Island's prison criticised following inspection

THE Island's prison in Jurby has been heavily criticised following an inspection earlier this year by the HM Inspectorate of Prisons.


A report into the inspection, led by chief inspector of prisons Nick Hardwick, has been published following the inspection between March 14 and March 18.


Despite praising the prison for its good standard of accommodation, generally safe and respectful environment and healthcare programme the report details a number of areas where the facility is underperforming.


These include the flouting of the smoking ban, high levels of re-offending and problems with drugs.


According to Nick "very little" was done to address prisoners' offending behaviour or to help prisoners find work and accommodation on release. He said: "Prisoners returning to the prison, as they did all too frequently, were greeted almost as absent friends.


"The prison's weaknesses in this area were compounded by the lack of an Island-wide strategy to reduce re-offending. I hope the governor and relevant parts of the Isle of Man Government can work together to address this as the costs and risks to future victims of not doing so are likely to be considerable."


At the time of the inspection 118 prisoners were being held at the prison. The report found that there was not enough for the prisoners to do to keep them occupied. The little work available to prisoners was described as "menial" and there was a lack of education and training due to difficulties recruiting staff.


Nick added: "There were too many prisoners simply hanging about with nothing to do – and the risk was that they found other outlets for their energy that were damaging to others or themselves."


Prisoners were also found to be flouting the prison's smoking ban by boiling up nicotine patches before soaking fruit peel or other substances in it and then rolling cigarettes from the pages of dictionaries or bibles. The substitute cigarettes were then lit with kettle elements and electrical wiring.


Nick continued: "Many prisoners appeared to be intensively and creatively engaged in circumventing the smoking ban. We saw this happening in full view of staff and were satisfied it was a wide-spread and long-standing occurrence."


The report also noted a "wider issue with drugs" in the prison with 20 per cent of prisoners surveyed stating that they had developed a drug problem whilst in prison and 48 per cent stating they thought they would have a problem with drugs when they left.


The range of drug treatments available to inmates was "not sufficiently flexible" and drug substitutes, issued by health professionals, were described as "a source of bullying in the prison".


Despite the shortcomings the prison was praised by inspectors who said the new building was an "excellent facility".


Nick explained: "In previous inspections my predecessors had been very concerned about the poor physical environment provided by the old Victorian prison in which prisoners were held.


"At this inspection we were very pleased to see that the move to an excellent new facility in the north of the Island had been successfully completed."


Prison staff were also praised for their relationships with the inmates which were described as the prison's "long-standing and greatest strength". The report also found that there was little violence, bullying or self harm in the prison and that most prisoners reported that they felt safe.


Nick concluded: "This inspection did identify significant progress in the prison and the new building and good relationships are a necessary platform for the further improvements that are required.


"It is important that the right balance is struck between the need for good relationships and a lack of bureaucracy – which are both quite appropriate in a small Island prison – and a too casual approach which might mean important issues are not addressed."


Mark Kelly, the chief executive of the Department of Home Affairs which operates the prison, said: "Whilst I acknowledge there is still work to be done I am pleased that the chief inspector of prisons has recognised the progress achieved in the Isle of Man in recent years.


"Given the challenges associated with running a prison with a mixed population of adult males and females and young offenders it is a credit to the governor and her officers that they have maintained the excellent staff-prisoner relationships.


"There is obviously scope for improvement and we will take on board the inspector's criticism. We will continue to work within current budget constraints to bring forward fresh ways to improve outcomes and thereby protect the Manx public which is the department’s core purpose."


He added that measures had already been put into place to address some of the concerns raised in the report including a review of offender management services, an improved resettlement programme and better links with other government departments.


The full report on the Isle of Man Prison can be viewed by visiting the HM Inspectorate of Prisons website here.


What do you make of this report? Let us know your thoughts by leaving a comment below:  



Also see: Prison has "lost control" of smoking ban according to chief prison inspector

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