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A challenging year at HMP Belmarsh

Regime restrictions and limited opportunities for prisoners made the past year a challenging one at HMP Belmarsh, says the Independent Monitoring Board (IMB) in its annual report for 2021/22.

The prison had adopted a cautious approach to coming out of lockdown in order to reduce violence, but it was not yet clear whether this had improved safety despite some positive work by staff. Shortages of staff also affected outcomes for prisoners in key areas.

The IMB noted that:

  • Sudden changes in regime resulted in lost activities, including education, as well as limited time out of cell and a lack of access to showers
  • Staff shortages led to the loss of prisoners’ property
  • The on-line visits booking system was out of action for most of the year, frustrating prisoners and their families
  • Resettlement work was limited, and there was still no support for remand prisoners.

Chair of the IMB, Peter Ward, said:

“While the prison has managed over the last year to keep prisoners and staff safe during the latter stages of the pandemic, the challenge will be to improve outcomes for prisoners in purposeful activity, education, and resettlement over the next year. Improvements in the visits process are also needed in the short term to facilitate access to families and improve the mental health of prisoners. Belmarsh can be a very challenging place and the staff are to be commended for the way they maintain day-to-day safety and security.”