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.”