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Chronic overcrowding and staff shortages still a major concern at HMP Bullingdon

In its 2021-22 annual report, the Independent Monitoring Board (IMB) at HMP Bullingdon highlights the negative impact staff shortages and overcrowding has had on prisoners and the stability of the prison, pointing out that this has repeatedly been raised as unacceptable.

The Board notes that:

  • Most of the 521 cells designed for single occupancy housed two prisoners. The Board questions whether this is fair or humane, especially since prisoners both eat meals and use the toilets in their cells
  • There had been a further reduction of 47 uniformed staff, and because of rising resignations more of the officers on wings were inexperienced, leading to ongoing concerns about safety
  • Although many restrictions had been lifted by the end of the reporting year, face-to-face education, vocational training, work opportunities and offender behaviour programmes all suffered or had to close, and staffing shortages were preventing a return to the pre-Covid regime.

The Board, however, noted a number of  improvements including:

  • The successful reduction of illicit items brought into the prison due to the installation of a body scanner
  • The positive impact of the new ‘reducing reoffending accelerator’ project, which seeks to cut crime and reduce reoffending by improving outcomes for prisoners and prison leavers across four themes: education, health, employment, and accommodation.
  • Upgraded IT systems. which have made it easier for staff to complete tasks
  • In-cell telephones and additional phones, which have helped to facilitate contact between prisoners and their families, and between prison staff and prisoners.
  • Healthcare provision for prisoners is generally good and getting better.

Vicki Talbot, IMB Bullingdon Chair, said: “Staffing shortages and overcrowding affect prisoners and staff, and pose a risk to the stability of the prison. Resignations are up and the percentage of officers with limited experience has increased. These staffing issues negatively affect all aspects of prison operation including prisoner rehabilitation.  In addition, overcrowding puts great pressure on communal spaces and facilities. Doubling up in single-use cells is incompatible with the fair and decent treatment of prisoners.  These continue to be issues and the Board intends to raise them again with the Minister.”