Fears grow over prison budget cuts

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CONCERNS have been raised over pressure being put on prison governors at a maximum security jail to cut their budget, according to a recent report.

The Independent Monitoring Board (IMB) raised its worries in its annual report, fearing it could lead to standards slipping.

The jail, which houses some of the most dangerous criminals in Britain and has 64 per cent of their population serving life sentences, was described by the IMB as a “well-managed” prison, but questioned how long that would last in the face of continual financial pressure.

It reads: “Once again concern about the burden on prison governors to achieve recurring financial savings each year. This will inevitably continue in the forthcoming years.

“These year on year cuts will lead to a continuing erosion of what is considered to be the accepted standards of support and decency for the prisoners and also to an increasing pressure of the staff in their day-to-day management of the prisoners.”

The IMB carried out their inspection at the end of November, with the results published last week.

They praised the efforts to improve the ‘safer custody’ element of prison life through what they call a “comprehensive, zero-tolerance approach to anti-social behaviour”.

They were also commended for the progress to introduce a dialysis treatment centre at the prison, a palliative care suite, while the learning and skills department has introduced further initiatives.

A training kitchen has been opened, as has a new braille workshop.

However, there was concern raised over the continued presence of illegal drugs and the misuse of prescribed drugs. There was also comments made over the number of prisoners who bring with them gang loyalties and rivalries, which they described as a “significant feature” of prison life.

From this, they commented on the growing population of the segregation unit with prisoners refusing to return to general population for fear of gang violence.

There had been a number of a pre-planned prisoner-on-prisoner assaults, some of which involved potentially-lethal improvised weapons, along with prisoner-on-staff attacks, but again said that the safer custody approach was helping the situation.

The IMB also defended the staff’s use of a body belt to retrain two “difficult” prisoners, who has repeatedly damaged their cells and carried out a dirty protest.

With the inspection carried out in November, no reference has been made to the murder of prisoner Colin Hatch two months ago.

The convicted child killer was allegedly strangled in his cell by another inmate.