La Moye prison is a “safe, secure and stable environment” says Jersey’s prison watchdog, but staffing pressures, the pandemic and prison wing ‘lockdowns’ took their toll in 2021…
The comments were published in the Independent Prison Monitoring Board’s (IPMB) Annual report for 2021, which outlined concerns related to staff shortages and mental wellbeing.
The report highlighted that while physical conditions at La Moye remain “clean, functional and well-maintained”, the board were concerned with the reduction in “meaningful out-of-cell activity”.
This was worsened in the autumn when every prison wing had a full day per week of total lockdown, due to staff shortages.
The report emphasises that security at la Moye has again been “strong” with very few serious or dangerous incidents, but that mental health was “constantly at the fore, as in any prison”.
During the year, members of the IPMB undertake regular monitoring visits to the prison to inform their reporting. This year the monitoring schedule was again impacted by covid-19 but the board undertook 22 visits.
Pictured: The report states "La Moye is a safe, secure and stable environment when compared to prisons in England and Wales."
Alongside these visits, a core function of the IPMB is to respond to applications from prisoners about issues relating to prison management.
In 2021, they received 51 applications, compared to 39 in 2020 and 27 in 2019.
The IPMB say there has been a steady increase in the number of applications since the board was established in 2017, which may indicate that prisoners are more aware of their services and have greater faith in the board’s efficacy.
This latest document is the fifth annual report from the IPMD since its establishment in 2017.
Apart from covid-19, the IPMB say there has been one topic that has come up frequently – staff shortages.
They say there have been numerous conversations, some of “bitterness and exhaustion”, some of “hope and optimism” but that overall there has been a “monumental effort” to recruit.
La Moye's new Governor, Susie Richardson, who joined the prison service in April 2021, has reassured the board that there are “new people in the pipe-line”. But, she says, “it just takes time.”
She also stated that while they are short on numbers, it is “not as dire as staff make out”. She believes that “new ways of working will show this”.
These new ways are a result of La Moye’s New Operating Model (NOM), a restructuring of the prison that will help to deploy staff more efficiently.
According to the IPMB, however, the introduction of NOM has “created or exacerbated staffing pressures”.
Pictured: Susie Richardson joined the States of Jersey Prison Service as its new Governor in April 2021.
During the process, temporary promotions and secondments were used to cover management functions, and officers needed to work additional overtime to help cover shortages. Several senior officers also resigned during the year.
The IPMD said: “While the long-term outcome may be beneficial, the management of this exercise caused difficulties in 2021.”
They say the implementation of NOM slowed the recruitment process of new officers, and shortages were not limited to uniformed workers. “The medical centre is also short-staffed,” they added.
Among the 51 prisoner applications the IPMD received in 2021, 14 of those were for alleged unfair treatment from staff.
The board say that complaints of this nature are “to be expected” in what can be a “confrontational working environment”, but staff shortages, with staff under pressure, might also have contributed to this.
A review of the impact on UK prisoners in the pandemic, undertaken by the HM Inspectorate of Prisons, found restrictions owing to the pandemic led to a decline in prisoners’ emotional, psychological and physical well-being.
They found that a lack of opportunity, be it educational or otherwise, and support in addressing offending behaviour, could potentially lead to further offending.
The report went so far as to explain that prisoners were leaving the prison system with undiagnosed mental health conditions developed in part due to heavy restrictions as a result of the pandemic.
While the IPMD says Jersey has not endured restrictions as severe as the UK, the pandemic has caused fewer visits, increased time in cells, reduced educational opportunities such as carpentry and in-prison employment, for much of 2020 and repeated sporadically throughout 2021; this, they say, was not conducive to mental and physical well-being.
Pictured: The IPMD says that mental health is "constantly at the fore, as in any prison".
The report goes on to say there are a “handful” of prisoners with serious mental health issues that require careful management, including one case that required a prisoner to be moved to an institution in England.
The IPMD said: “Both uniformed and civilian staff are to be admired for their continuous efforts in trying circumstances.
“In addition to the pressures of any workplace, many of the people they are dealing with have mental health issues ranging from anxiety about legal cases, families and money to serious conditions requiring specialised treatment, while also adjusting to their loss of liberty.”
Complaints regarding healthcare and access to mental health support stayed at the same level as in 2020, with three applications submitted for mental health support, and three for healthcare and dental care.
From the total of 51 applications, 22% were made in September 2021, which coincided with the locking down of each wing of the prison for one day per week.
During 2021, there were 34 incidents of self-harm (24 in 2020) of which 21 were classified as serious (9 in 2020). Just one prisoner accounted for 16 of the serious self-harm incidents.
If prisoners pose a threat to themselves or others, they can be moved from the residential wings of the prison to the Care and Control Unit (CCU).
According to the board’s report, last year, CCU was used for 23 different prisoners, but usage was dominated by three prisoners who respectively spent 111 days, 91 days and 52 days in the unit.
Pictured: Deputy Gregory Guida acknowledged that "significant improvements" were needed to manage prisoners with serious mental health issues.
Two had mental health problems and each spent a long period in CCU while arrangements were made for them to go to suitable institutions in the UK.
In respect of one of these cases, the IPMD escalated their concerns to the Minister for Home Affairs, Deputy Gregory Guida.
The IPMD said: “The response acknowledged the need to make significant improvements in the management of prisoners with serious mental health issues, while noting that Jersey will likely always have some off-island dependencies for specialist care.”
As in 2020, COVID-19 impacted on education, employment and other out-of-cell activities last year.
Along with vocational staff vacancies, the pandemic led to a scaled back timetable, with shorter library sessions, fewer taught subjects, and reduced numbers in all activities for social distancing purposes.
The report highlights that the situation worsened in the autumn when every wing had a full day per week of total lockdown.
That said, the IPMD said there was educational provision in areas such as Functional Skills, Open Learning, English as a Second Language and Humanities. Other activities included art lessons, a peer reading initiative, library services, gym activities, woodwork and horticulture.
Pictured: Out-of-cell activities include carpentry, art lessons and a peer reading initiative.
The board was pleased that an art teacher started in September 2021, following an absence since December 2020. They hope that a qualified carpenter is secured soon for the workshop to allow prisoners to develop and enjoy woodwork skills.
Employment opportunities were also impacted, particularly on the prison’s K wing, where there were not enough jobs for the number of prisoners.
However, during their monitoring visits the IPMB observed various activities such as prisoners working in the vegetable compound, carrying out cleaning and servery duties, gardening and making Christmas decorations.
Six prisoner applications related to prison facilities or the inability to access those facilities. Looking at the individual cases, the board said there was no particular pattern or recurring theme, but more than one application related to the implementation of the ‘lock up’ day.
Express previously spoke to Prison Governor Susie Richardson about the challenges facing HMP La Moye, and the 'Seven Pathways' model for reducing reoffending which she is hoping to implement...
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