The 2020-21 annual report from Eastwood Park IMB highlights concerns about the impact of Covid-19 on a prison population that is already vulnerable due to a high level of mental health issues and complex needs and where many women would be better treated in the healthcare system. The Board reports the following:
- there were many prisoners with complex or acute mental health needs, as well as a prisoner with an acquired brain injury who at the end of the reporting period (had been continuously segregated for 1,202 days. Ongoing efforts to transfer the woman to a secure healthcare facility have been unsuccessful
- the pandemic resulted in a restricted regime, reducing social movement and limited time out of cell. This had an adverse effect on prisoners’ mental health and physical wellbeing.
- the levels of self-harm at Eastwood Park continue to be high and of great concern
The report however notes the following positives:
- construction of the long-awaited activities centre is in progress. This major construction project is programmed for completion by June
- Significant progress has been made with resolving many longstanding maintenance issues.
IMB Chair, Arthur Williams, said:
“It has been another challenging year for Eastwood Park. In a prison which already struggles with the complex mental health needs of its population, the pandemic has had a major effect on regimes and subsequently the women’s mental health. It is however important to acknowledge that the acting governor, officers and staff work tirelessly to keep prisoners as safe as possible during this challenging time. In our 2019-20 report, the Board asked if there was to be a national needs assessment of women prisoners’ physical and mental health needs. The minister responded by stating that there was a review commissioned aimed at improving well-being. At the point of writing this report we were still awaiting the outcome of this.”