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Rising prison population places severe strain on resources at HMP Cardiff

In its 2022-23 annual report, the Independent Monitoring Board (IMB) for HMP Cardiff raises serious concerns over the impact ongoing population pressures are having on prisoners. The IMB notes that this is highly likely to continue unless significant measures are taken to address this on a national basis.

The Board reports that:

  • A large proportion of prisoners are forced to share cells and have no access to out of cell space at mealtimes. Consequently, men in shared cells must eat in the same space as their shared toilet.
  • There was a significant increase in the use of illicit substances in the summer of 2023. The Board, however, acknowledges the prison’s response, increasing levels of searches, monitoring visits and introducing body scanners and a full complement of dogs on site.
  • Levels of self-harm continued to be a concern, with 374 incidents in the reporting period, including several prisoners who self-harmed multiple times. 
  • Although over 80% of prisoners released from HMP Cardiff during the reporting period were recorded as having accommodation to go to on release, this means that almost 20% were released homeless.

Despite this considerable pressure, the Board is pleased to report that:

  • Improvements have been made in responding to the health and wellbeing requirements of prisoners.
  • A neurodiversity hub and an incentivised substance-free living unit were both opened in 2023, supporting the progress of prisoners.
  • Prisoner volunteers, such as Samaritan’s listeners, wing representatives, mentors, and peers make a valuable contribution.

IMB Cardiff Chair, Jaci Rankmore, said:

“Along with the wider prison estate across England and Wales, HMP Cardiff is facing daily and significant pressures in terms of its population. We recognise this is not a problem at Cardiff alone and the Board calls for longer term solutions to be introduced across the prison estate. 

Prisoners are overwhelmingly accommodated two to a cell, raising concerns about privacy and decency; our 2022-23 report seeks reassurance from the UK government around the improvement of basic conditions in the prison.

We would, however, like to acknowledge the work of the Governor and staff, and the contribution made by prisoners at HMP Cardiff in achieving an overall safe and positive environment in the face of these unprecedented pressures.”