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First year challenges at HMP Five Wells

In its first annual report, the HMP Five Wells Independent Monitoring Board (IMB) highlights the difficulties of opening a new prison. HMP Five Wells’ functionality as a rehabilitation and resettlement prison has been hindered by a lack of experienced staff and structural design faults.

The 2022/23 report raises a number of concerns, including:

  • Staff recruitment difficulties which have led to a shortage of prison officers, and education and workshop tutors. The shortage of experienced staff has meant that inexperienced staff lacked support.
  • Insufficient work opportunities and the suspension of release on temporary licence has limited prisoners’ access to appropriate resettlement opportunities. 
  • Design faults in the building of the prison mean low mobility cells on each wing cannot be occupied for safety reasons and air flow on the landings is poor.
  • The high number of complaints from prisoners about the quality and quantity of food.

The report also highlights what has gone well in the first year of operation:

  • The support provided for families, with family ties being encouraged and a well-used visits hall. 
  • More than 20 workshops were running by the end of the year, including carpentry, bike repairs, a training kitchen, a call centre, and Salvation Army recycling.
  • Staffing difficulties notwithstanding, a regime of up to nine hours out of cell per day for prisoners has been maintained.

IMB Five Wells Chair, David Culwick, says:

“It is unfortunate that, due to unforeseen circumstances, the prison has had three changes of Director in the first fifteen months of operation. This, along with difficulties in recruiting and retaining staff, has hindered the development of Five Wells’ rehabilitation and resettlement programme. We look forward to the next twelve months as a time of consolidation of regime offering opportunities to prisoners and support and training for staff.”