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Covid restrictions impact on prisoners’ safety at HMP Lowdham Grange

In its annual report for 2021-22, released today, the independent monitoring board (IMB) at HMP Lowdham Grange raises concerns about an increase in self-harm and assaults, associated with the continued restrictions on prison regimes, though it also commends the prison for mitigating Covid risks. For most of the year, the prison was operating a very restrictive regime, as required by the Ministry of Justice. The Board commends prison and healthcare staff for their handling of the serious outbreaks of Covid-19 and the demands of the vaccination programmes, despite staff shortages. However:

  • There was a marked increase in prisoner-on-prisoner assaults, an increase in self-harm and four deaths in custody during the year
  • There continues to be a significant shortage of mental health beds for seriously ill prisoners, which prevents them from receiving appropriate treatment and often leads to them being held in long term segregation.

The IMB also notes the continuing commitment to curb the entry of drugs and other prohibited items, through the consistent use of the body scanner and X-ray equipment, together with searches and the use of drug dogs.

IMB Lowdham Grange Chair, Barbara Morgan said:

“This has been a very challenging year for the prisoners in HMP Lowdham Grange who, have faced severe and prolonged restrictions to keep them as safe as possible from the very evident risks of Covid infection.

“Prisoners have therefore spent significant amounts of time each day in their cells without normal activities such as work, education, gym, family visits and religious services. When circumstances permitted there were opportunities for increased time out of cell, but this had to be quickly curtailed, as Covid affected staff numbers and increased the risk to prisoners.

“The impact of these restrictions on prisoners’ mental health is noted and can be evidenced in the increased incidence of self-harming, and the number of assaults.