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Security concerns lead to limited regime at HMP Belmarsh

A study published by the Independent Monitoring Board (IMB) for HMP Belmarsh in their latest annual report has revealed that 25% of prisoners are spending 22 hours a day in their cells. Although staffing levels at the prison are generally good, there is a reluctance to ease the strict security regime, thus preventing the chance of prisoner engagement in any sort of purposeful activity.

The IMB also noted that:

  • the time taken to assess and provide appropriate accommodation for prisoners suffering with mental health issues remains far too long
  • prisoner complaints to the Board on missing property, especially when transferring between prisons, doubled during the year, causing understandable frustration
  • there is a small number of prisoners at HMP Belmarsh serving indefinite Imprisonment for Public Protection (IPP) sentences, who were given relatively short tariffs over 10 years ago. The Board considers it inhumane to keep these men in prison for such lengthy periods
  • the contract for healthcare was awarded in February 2023 but, at the end of the reporting year in June 2023, the provision of mental health nurses had been reduced to less than one full time equivalent.

Chair of the IMB, Peter Ward, said:

“Belmarsh can be a very challenging place and although staff are to be commended for the way they maintain day-to-day safety and security, this has resulted in limited opportunities for prisoners to engage in purposeful activity, education, or resettlement work. Furthermore, prisoners with severe mental health issues are not being moved to more therapeutic environments which also places a strain on prison staff and facilities.”