The prison population across England and Wales is nearly at capacity, and whilst new prison places are being added, the growth in capacity is not yet sufficient to deal with the number of prisoners in the system. At HMP Wealstun this has resulted in the doubling up of cells. The shortage of officers is also impacting Wealstun’s ability to function as a resettlement prison, with men locked up for long periods of time and limited workshop and educational opportunities.
In its 2022-23 annual report, the Wealstun IMB notes that:
- There has been a significant increase in the number of cells designed for one person now housing two, which has a severe impact on decency and privacy for prisoners.
- Prison Officers from HMP Wealstun are being sent on ‘detached duty’ to assist other prisons with staff shortages. This results in prisoners spending up to 22 hours a day in their cell and a large proportion of men having no contact with their key worker.
- There have been difficulties recruiting workshop tutors, limiting opportunities for prisoners to undertake purposeful activity. This is impacting prisoners’ ability to earn money during their sentence and their opportunities of finding work on release.
However, the Board were pleased to report that:
- Wealstun has been selected as a ‘super site’ by Clinks Kitchen Scheme and from July 2023 a full time Clinks trainer will be based on site to support training initiatives.
- There has been positive feedback on family days, and the ‘Storybook Dads’ scheme continues to be popular.
IMB Wealstun Chair, Rebecca Major, said: “Whilst the staff at HMP Wealstun are working hard to ensure that prisoners are treated fairly and humanely, kept safe and helped with resettlement, the continuing increases to capacity and staffing challenges mean that prisoners are locked in their cells for longer than should be the case. Staffing shortages have also impacted the running of workshops so the majority of prisoners can only work part time with the resultant reduced pay. Furthermore, prison wages have not risen in line with inflation so many struggle to afford essential items from the canteen.”