Prison still has work to do
CHELMSFORD Prison is "still at the bottom of the pile" and needs funding to improve the situation, a watchdog's annual report has said. A report by the Prison Service rated Chelmsford as 132nd of the 135 prisons in the UK, leaving confidence at the prison "shattered.
CHELMSFORD Prison is "still at the bottom of the pile" and needs funding to improve the situation, a watchdog's annual report has said.
A report by the Prison Service rated Chelmsford as 132nd of the 135 prisons in the UK, leaving confidence at the prison "shattered."
The Independent Monitoring Board (IMB) at Chelmsford Prison released its yearly report yesterday.
The board said the Prison Service rating had come as a "great surprise" and it poorly reflected the commitment of staff and management.
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The IMB, which used to be known as the board of visitors, highlighted improvements made during the year leading up to July 31 but also listed a number of areas which could be improved.
The IMB said the prison had become healthier and a relaxed constructive atmosphere had developed on most fronts.
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But it was shocked when the Prison Service ratings were released which ranked the prison close to the bottom.
Neil Orr, IMB chairman, said: "We thought the prison was doing rather well over the past year or 18 months.
"The atmosphere was infinitely more confident and things were going from strength to strength. We were greatly surprised."
Security was one of the categories that the prison scored poorly in.
But, Mr Orr said there had been a dramatic change in the prison since new governor Steve Rodfordarrived in August.
The IMB report said: "The deficiencies which the IMB would like to highlight are very much as they were last year and reflect the overcrowded state of the prison without the resources to implement the Government's much vaunted objectives of resettlement and reduction in re-offending."
It also highlighted that:
nDrugs remain themajor problem at Chelmsford Prison and progress in controlling and monitoring them is disappointing.
nDue to budget cuts, there are 135 officers for 576 prisoners, compared to 142 officers for 501 inmates two years ago.
nVisits are "a disgrace", with only 20 spaces for 576 prisoners, despite the problem being highlighted since 1991.
nThere is a lack of continuity because of regular changes in prison ministers and the governor and deputy governor at the prison.
n60% of hospital appointments have to be cancelled at short notice because of staff shortages.
nFew of the inmates take place in purposeful activity, with 450 prisoners spending an average of more than 21 hours a day in their cell.
Improvements and good news also outlined in the report included:
nWork on a new healthcare building is on schedule.
nA counselling service is still operational and there is constructive liaison between the prison and local primary care trust.
nThe report applauded an active management committee which oversees race relations, equal opportunities and disability awareness.
nThe prison kitchen still provides high quality food with very few complaints from prisoners.
Mr Rodford said a bid for £1.5 million to build a new visits centre was submitted to the Home Office in August.
He added: "The report runs up until July 31 and I joined the prison on August 6. I think the board (the IMB) commented reasonably and accurately but a lot's been going on since in terms of improved performance.
"That is no criticism of the report, because it is a fair reflection of the problems the prison were facing."