Prison Merger Causing Problems

Merging three prisons has left an institution where drug use is endemic, the use of force is high and inmates seek sanctuary in a segregation unit, a report has revealed.

An inspection of HMP Isle of Wight found a quarter of prisoners were locked in their cells during the day in one section of the jail.

Night sanitation arrangements were "unacceptable" and "degrading", while staff resorted to "inappropriate" use of special accommodation, it concluded.

The report showed some progress had been made since the amalgamation of the Parkhurst, Albany and Camp Hill sites but this had created a massive institution with a large number of "inherited weaknesses".

Among their observations, inspectors noted that safety had deteriorated at Camp Hill while there was not enough education, training or work to keep inmates purposefully occupied.

Too many of them were unemployed and not enough focus was placed on vocational qualifications, they said.

Juliet Lyon, director of the Prison Reform Trust, said the "worrying" findings reflected the "true cost of unchecked prison expansion".

"Merging three separate prisons into one massive establishment has created a prison that, despite some improvements, is difficult to manage, unsafe in parts, with poor conditions in others and a lack of proper provision for education, training and work overall,'' she said.

"These are lessons the Government will need to consider carefully as it reviews its plans for the prison estate."

Nick Hardwick, Chief Inspector of Prisons, said HMP Isle of Wight was "in many ways, the sum of its three disparate parts".

Acknowledging the numerous "inherited weaknesses" at the jail, he recognised progress had been "inconsistent".

Areas found to have improved included safety at Parkhurst and Albany where steps had also been taken to reduce the disproportionate use of segregation.

Suicide and self-harm prevention issues were "generally well-managed" while there had been considerable management efforts to develop staff-prisoner relationships.

Mental health services were also said to be good.

Michael Spurr, chief executive officer of the National Offender Management Service (NOMS), welcomed the moderate improvements.

"Isle of Wight has been through a radical programme of change recently to amalgamate three prisons and this report suggests the prison is heading in the right direction," he said.

"The acting governor and his staff will continue to address the recommendations in the report and will build on the progress already made."

The three Isle of Wight prisons were brought together in 2009 under a single governor, Barry Greenberry, who recently resigned from his post.

Around 1,700 male prisoners are held at the category B jail, according to its website.

The announced inspection was carried out in October last year. Its findings will be published today.