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Improving and worthwhile regime despite staff shortages

Efforts to improve regime restrictions caused by unprecedented staff shortages have been welcomed by the Swaleside Independent Monitoring Board (IMB) in its 2022-23 annual report. By reducing the prisoner population through relocation and utilising detached duty officers from other prisons, the leadership team have managed to ease pressures. As a result, prisoners now have increased time out of cell and access to work, education and religious activities.

The IMB observed that:

  • the education provision is of a high standard and face-to-face teaching has re-started.
  • security has improved with new technology and body worn cameras now provided and mandatory for all officers when on duty.
  • face-to-face social visits for prisoners and their families have resumed after a long period when contact was limited to video and phone calls. This is having a positive impact on prisoners’ mental health.

However, the Board also reports that:

  • drugs, especially spice, continue to be a major problem, and the prison are limiting the amount of sugar that prisoners can purchase from the canteen to prevent the production of hooch.
  • the number of prisoners being directly released into the community from Swaleside is increasing, which means they are often released without adequate preparation and support as Swaleside is not a resettlement prison.  

IMB Swaleside Chair, Neil Rae, said:

“All staff should be congratulated on the improvements made for prisoners during a challenging period. The increased time out of cell and opportunities for education, work and religious practice will inevitably improve prisoners’ mental health and provide a significant step towards returning to a decent and humane regime. However, we are concerned that spice misuse remains a persistent challenge. More must also be done to ensure prisoners are properly supported ahead of their release into the community to reduce the likelihood of reoffending.”