A rise in violence, fears for safety and an inadequate response from management were among the main concerns raised by inspectors, during a visit to the Isle of Wight’s prison earlier this year.
According to a report published today (Tuesday), HMP Isle of Wight was found to be a “respectful prison” but one where “safety had deteriorated”.
Rehabilitation and release planning was also rated as “not sufficiently good”, following a HM Inspectorate of Prisons visit in April and May.
At the time of this inspection, 40% of the population were over 50 years old and a significant proportion were elderly and sometimes frail.
Peter Clarke, HM Chief Inspector of Prisons, said incidents of violence had almost trebled since its last visit in 2015.
“We found prisoners had very poor perceptions of safety.
“In our survey, more than half said they had felt unsafe during their time at HMP Isle of Wight and nearly a quarter felt unsafe at the time of the inspection.
“While violence was still not widespread, it had risen significantly since the previous inspection and the response of managers was not good enough, leading to inconsistent challenge of perpetrators and little support for victims.”
However, Mr Clarke said much positive work continued at the prison.
Most prisoners could get 10 hours out of their cell each weekday and gym and library provision were good.
The majority of prisoners also said they had a member of staff they could turn to if they had a problem and living conditions were also reasonably good.
Mr Clarke said:
“Relationships between staff and prisoners remained good, underpinning prisoners’ experience of everyday life.”
Teaching and learning were also good and achievement rates were very high on most courses, though inspectors found a large number of prisoners underemployed in a significant number of wing roles.
The long-term, high-risk sex offender population (nearly 1,000 men convicted of sexual offences are in HMP Isle of Wight) presented significant challenges in rehabilitation and release planning, according to the report.
Mr Clarke said:
“We found a very similar picture to the previous inspection.
“Fundamentally, some good work was undermined by a lack of up-to-date assessments of risk and need, high offender supervisor caseloads and a lack of contact between offender supervisors and prisoners.
“This meant the one-to-one motivational work needed with the large number of prisoners who were maintaining their innocence could not take place.”
Around half the men at the prison maintained their innocence.
Overall, Mr Clarke said improvements are needed:
“HMP Isle of Wight is a respectful place where good relationships between frontline staff and prisoners result in many positive outcomes.
“However, there needs to be a better operational grip on safety.
“Managers need to address the weaknesses in offender management to ensure the prison fulfills its purpose of reducing the risks these long-term prisoners pose, both within the prison and, importantly, when they are eventually released.”