December 8 2013 Latest news:
Saturday, September 14, 2013
An independent review of a Suffolk prison has identified a ‘disturbing’ lack of progress in the way inmates with severe mental health problems are treated.
The annual Independent Monitoring Board (IMB) report of HMP Highpoint in Stradishall also said it “deplores” the holding of foreign national prisoners beyond their sentence due to delays in decisions on their immigration status.
Despite registering “grave concerns” last year, the board said that vulnerable prisoners still face segregation and delays before being provided with specialist care.
The IMB said that although officers in the segregation and assessment unit show considerable care in keeping prisoners safe the current situation is “intolerable.”
The Board also questioned the lack of a counselling service for prisoners with psychological disorders and said it hopes prisoners can soon receive the same support available in the community.
Yesterday, Susan Feary, chair of Highpoint (IMB) said it was “a shame” they were still talking about the same issues. The prison service does try very hard to work out what to do with these people, but with budget cuts it’s more difficult. We really need to get them somewhere else. They need secure accommodation, but not necessarily a prison.”
The report also reveals that at the time of writing there were 182 Foreign Nationals held in Highpoint – of whom 24 were being held post release.
Although the figures are an improvement on last year and the UK Border Agency visits the prison monthly, prisoners are said to be “still frustrated by the length of time it takes to receive accurate information about their immigration”.
The report also revealed that 2012 saw an overall increase in finds of drugs, mobile phones and “hooch” – with 251 litres of home brewed alcohol being confiscated and destroyed.
Overall the dedication and commitment of staff levels was acknowledged, but the IMB said future investment remained a concern and could result in prisoners locked up for longer periods.
A spokesman added: “The Board is concerned that further savings might prejudice the running of a safe and decent, adequately staffed, establishment offering effective re-settlement programmes.
“The Board continues to have grave concerns about prisoners with severe mental health problems being segregated for lengthy periods of time.”
The report runs from January 1 to December 31 2012.
West Suffolk MP, Matthew Hancock, said: “I have seen for myself the excellent work that HMP Highpoint does to reduce re-offending and prepare offenders for release. I am glad the report recognises this and the dedication of the staff who work there. I am sure Highpoint’s management will look closely at what this report has to say to make sure the high standards it has in so many areas are extended to those where concerns are raised.”
The Ministry of Justice had not commented last night.