The Independent Monitoring Board has revealed Drake Hall has continued to provide a safe and decent environment for the women in its care despite changes to its population, which have presented challenges to staff.
In its annual report for 2016/17, the IMB reports that Drake Hall provides a safe and secure environment, where female prisoners are treated with humanity and decency. In spite of being a closed Prison, Drake Hall has an open environment that supports prisoner rehabilitation; education provision is good and women have the opportunity to develop skills that will enable them to gain employment on release.
However, the closure of Holloway Prison in London has led to the admission of more women with difficult behaviours and complex needs, which risks undermining the good relationships between prisoners and staff that are a feature of the positive atmosphere at Drake Hall. Such women can be difficult to manage in an open environment. Since these changes there has been an increase in the number of incidents of bullying and assaults, with a corresponding increase in the use of the care and separation unit (segregation).
Sadly, there was a death in custody at the beginning of the year covered in the annual report – an inquest is underway at the time of writing.
The IMB is also repeating its call for dilapidated accommodation – Plymouth and Richmond Houses – to be refurbished, an issue the IMB and its predecessor organisation have raised since 1996. This accommodation, built in the 1940s, now falls below an acceptable standard.
There is also an urgent need for a female GP to be available and for the prison’s dentist chair to be repaired or replaced to ensure that healthcare meets the required standard.
IMB Drake Hall Chair, John Townsley, said:
“Although Drake Hall is a closed prison, its open environment contributes to the prison’s strong record in supporting prisoner rehabilitation. This is an important strength at Drake Hall – education provision is good and women have the opportunity to develop skills, including experience of working in a call centre and training for jobs with Halfords and Greggs.
As many women at Drake Hall have a history of trauma, a female GP should be available. We would also like to see the personal officer scheme improved, so that a designated officer, known to prisoners, is able to provide the support they need to address their behaviour and transform their lives.”
The full report is published on www.imb.org.uk/reports/
Who are Independent Monitoring Boards?
Independent Monitoring Boards (IMBs) monitor fairness and respect for people in custody to confirm it is fair, just and humane.
IMBs are made up of independent public appointees and operate in every prison and Immigration Removal Centre.
For more information about IMBs see www.imb.org.uk.