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IMB welcomes moves towards pre-Covid “normality” at HMP Highpoint

Last year saw continued efforts to keep the prison, its staff and prisoners, as free from Covid as possible, while creating and maintaining a safe and supportive environment, and gradually moving towards relaxing restrictions.

The Independent Monitoring Board (IMB) at HMP Highpoint today publishes its 2021 annual report, highlighting a number of ways in which this has been achieved:

  • Visits by family and friends were resumed in May, as were vocational and educational classes. Numbers were reduced, to enable social distancing, and lateral flow tests were used on a regular basis.
  • Other services, for example mental health, drug rehabilitation, and chaplaincy, continued to provide much needed support to prisoners.
  • Regular clear communication bulletins from the Governor allowed everyone to understand necessary regime changes, with social interaction (exercise periods, mealtimes etc) restricted as little as possible.
  • The IMB also noted a reduction in self-harm and disruptive incidents, in spite of a natural frustration among prisoners at continuing restrictions and believes this reflects the work of the Governor and staff in reducing tension during this period.

The IMB is concerned, however, by:

  • Serious under-resourcing at the prison, in staffing and services, which has negatively impacted on outcomes for prisoners and risks undermining the morale of those who work within the prison.
  • The effect on prisoner progression of Covid restrictions, including reductions in D category applications, Parole Board hearings, and the availability of offending behaviour programmes

Carol Thompson, Chair of IMB Highpoint, said:

“We believe that prisoners come to prison as a punishment, not to be punished. Anything that enhances a man’s sense of dignity and self-worth is a step towards rehabilitation and away from re-offending. The Covid lockdown has inevitably compromised rehabilitative focus but we welcome the resumption of this work.”