Merger plan for Suffolk jails

TWO Suffolk jails are to be merged under plans put forward by prison chiefs.

Laurence Cawley

TWO Suffolk jails are to be merged under plans put forward by prison chiefs.

Dame Anne Owers, chief inspector of prisons, warned moves to join HMP Edmunds Hill and neighbouring HMP Highpoint in Stradishall, near Bury St Edmunds, was likely to cause “major upheaval” to both institutions.

The planned amalgamation was announced in an inspection report published yesterday by Dame Anne into the quality of service offered by Edmunds Hill, which was until recently a women's prison.

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She said it had made slow and steady progress towards being an effective male training prison, but now faced further upheaval and amalgamation with neighbouring Highpoint.

In their report, inspectors said considerable progress had been made to expand the quality and quantity of purposeful activity, that healthcare and work to prevent self-harm was much improved, that drug use was commendably low and that staff-prisoner relationships were generally good.

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However, concerns were raised about the lack of one-to-one interviews on inmates' first nights, the backlog of offender assessments and reviews, the needs of foreign national prisoners going unmet and the need for more work to be carried out to combat bullying.

Dame Anne said: “Edmunds Hill had progressed in a number of areas since our last visit and had begun to establish itself as an effective training prison, after a difficult period in which its function changed a number of times.

“Unfortunately, a further major upheaval was now under consideration, with plans to amalgamate the prison with its larger neighbour, HMP Highpoint. It is to be hoped that the progress made in recent years is not undermined by yet more major change.”

Phil Wheatley, director general of the National Offender Management Service, said: “I am pleased that the Chief Inspector recognises the progress made in a number of areas at HMP Edmunds Hill in a period of transition.

“These improvements in health and self-harm are a result of the good work done by the governor and staff at the prison.

“It is pleasing to note that drug use at the prison is low and that relationships between staff and prisoners are good.

“The Governor and his staff will address the recommendations in the Chief Inspector's report and I am confident that the prison will continue to improve.”

A Prison Service spokesperson said: “Our intention is to merge the neighbouring HMP Edmunds Hill and HMP Highpoint and we are now examining this option in detail.

“Between 1977-2001 they were in effect run as a single prison.”

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