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Monday, April 22, 2024

HMP/YOI Feltham B report says high numbers of attacks against staff cause by prisoner frustration

A report has found 'concerning levels' of violence against staff as well as unsanitary conditions for prisoners at a youth offender's prison in Hounslow

A report has found ‘concerning levels’ of violence against staff as well as unsanitary conditions for prisoners at a youth offender’s prison in Hounslow. After an inspection by HM Chief Inspector of Prisons 2023, HMP/YOI Feltham B was assessed to have failed to make significant progress in any key areas of concern including prisoner and staff safety.

The findings come as Feltham has increased its prisoner population by 40 per cent in order to accommodate a growing number of incarcerated people nationwide. Although traditionally meant to house people between 18-21, the prison has expanded to include people up to 30 years-old.

While despite the increase assaults have dropped, especially amongst prisoners, the report states that there is “still a concern about violence against staff”.  Since the previous inspection in 2019, there have been 277 recorded assaults on prisoners and 76 on staff.

The report concludes that the root cause of assaults on staff, which could be prison officers, teachers or other educators, was “often caused by prisoner frustration with a poor or unpredictable daily routine.” Quite often interruptions to daily routines were caused by officers segregating prisoners and conducting ‘keep-aparts’ to avoid conflicts.

The front gate of HMP/YOI Feltham Image: PA

The use of this type of strategy is excessive at the prison, according to the report, and means disruption to inmates’ education, vocational training and exercise. While the use of segregation has helped reduce prisoner-on-prisoner violence, the report concludes that it has sparked increasing resentment towards staff.

It reads: “Assaults on staff had risen since the last inspection arising from frustration over the inconsistent daily routine and prisoners being locked in their cells for prolonged periods. The over-reliance on keeping prisoners separated as a violence management strategy persisted, with 339 instances involving 236 prisoners since the inspection.”

With Feltham having a maximum capacity of over 760, that means that nearly a third of all prisoners have been involved in ‘keep-aparts’. The interruption to routines meant that at times prisoners would only be allowed out of cells for an hour a day.

The segregation units, where prisoners involved in ‘keep-aparts’ are kept, were also found to be unsanitary. Rusty sinks and toilets, soiled bedding and mould-covered showers were all discovered within the unit by the report.

Perhaps the most stark discovery was a large chunk of the ceiling missing, with the unit suffering from “persistent problems such as the leaking roof” which caused “internal flooding during heavy rainfall and contributed to damp problems.”

Due to disruption caused by violence, segregation and the lack of planning to deal with the influx of prisoners meant there was not nearly enough work or education for the prison to deliver its function as a category C training prison. Inspectors found that a lack of activity spaces, staff shortages and safety concerns among prisoners meant attendance at work or training was woeful, and just one in five prisoners were employed in activity away from their prison wings.

There were eight key areas of improvement identified by the prison service and Ofsted since the last visit which included levels of violence too high, use of segregation was high, conditions on the unit being poor and prisoner regimes were too inconsistent. Out of the eight, five deemed that the prison had made insufficient progress.

The use of segregation was high and the unit’s poor condition was something inspectors had seen little progress being made, while increases in prisoners’ access to education, skills and work had also stalled. The report did find that reasonable progress had been made in the reduction of violence overall.

In his summary of the report Charlie Taylor, HM Chief Inspector of Prisons wrote:  “Local leaders will be unable to make significant progress without substantial support from HMPPS leaders. This will need to focus on increasing the amount of work at the site, changing the culture and addressing the shortfalls in the probation service in London.”

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