Safety is a serious concern at HMP Lowdham Grange, for the second year running, with three apparently self-inflicted deaths in three weeks, says the independent monitoring board (IMB). The IMB took the unusual step of publishing an annex to its 2022-3 report, alerting ministers to its concerns following the change of management of the prison.
In its annual report, covering the period before the change of management, the Board noted:
- For the second year running safety at the prison had deteriorated.
- Drugs were a continuing problem, both affecting prisoner behaviour and encouraging illicit activity and debt.
- Significant numbers of improvised weapons were discovered.
- Staff shortages impacted on meaningful activities and adversely affected relationships between prisoners and staff.
- Though some prisoners were released directly from the prison, there is no specialist rehabilitation and resettlement resource.
The annex to the report, covering the period after the change of management, notes that:
- There were three deaths, within three weeks of the change of management, which are under investigation by the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman.
- More staff than anticipated left at the time of the handover. Staff were brought in from other prisons, but none were from high security category B prisons.
- Serious concerns about the quality of healthcare, raised in an inquest into a previous death in custody, had increased because of staff shortages, and the withdrawal of night-time nursing cover.
The Chair of the Lowdham Grange IMB said: ‘The deteriorating situation at Lowdham Grange has caused significant concern to the Board. These concerns were compounded by shortages of both prison and healthcare staff. Prisoners are also directly released without specialist rehabilitation and resettlement involvement. Despite this catalogue of difficulties, the prison has been told to prepare to take an extra twenty prisoners, some of whom will have to share cells for the first time’.