An annual Independent Monitoring Board report on HMP Isle of Wight has identified concerns about the delay in transferring prisoners with complex mental health conditions and a lack of funding for essential building work.
The IMB found a number of positive steps were taken by the team at HMP Isle of Wight in 2019, with improvements in equalities management, prisoner-led forums and a reduction in discrimination incident reports.
The board believes that these, together with a significant improvement in the prison complaints process, demonstrate a commitment to ensure that all prisoners are treated equitably.
However, the board continues to have concerns regarding the continued lack of funding to undertake essential building work on the 2 sites at HMP Isle of Wight – Albany and Parkhurst. Shower facilities are beyond repair in some areas, whilst in other areas prisoners are having to use chemical toilets – resulting in ‘toilet parcels’ being littered on the ground outside the wings.
In December 2019, there was a roof collapse in the area used for programmes in Parkhurst and alternative accommodation was identified so that prisoners in these groups could continue to have sessions in an appropriate environment. There was a serious roof leak in the Albany tailor’s workshop which caused the suspension of all work in that department with no information or time scale of when repairs would allow work to resume.
Poor and interrupted reception has been an ongoing issue for prisoners. In March, 90% of prisoners reported suffering poor TV reception. Whilst the prison has made attempts to investigate and rectify the problem, it has been to no avail.
Furthermore, there are concerns about the delay in transferring prisoners with complex mental health conditions to appropriate psychiatric facilities. This results in prisoners spending significant periods of time in segregation, which can have a deleterious effect on their mental health.
Assaults on staff were up 4.6% last year when compared to 2018, but prisoner on prisoner assaults were down by 18%. Overall, the total number of violent incidents was down 10%.
The total number of self-harm incidents rose by 10% to 745 in 2019. This is said to be a major concern of the governor.
The Chair of the Board, Linda Johnson says:
“While the IMB congratulate the prison on the improvements made during 2019, the Board continues to be concerned regarding the delays in transferring prisoners with complex mental health conditions, this was also identified as a concern during the HMIP inspection. The Board has raised this issue with the Minister.”
HMP Isle of Wight has an average population of approximately 1,033 prisoners of which around 40% were aged over 50 in 2019, including 47 prisoners over the age of 70. Over 98% of the prisoners are convicted sex offenders, with 100 serving life sentences and a further 42 with an indeterminate sentence for public protection (IPP). 800 prisoners are deemed as being an ongoing risk to children and 45 of those have all of their mail and phone calls monitored.
A total of 6 deaths were recorded at HMP Isle of Wight in 2019 with 6 coroner’s inquests outstanding.