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Staff shortages result in inhumane treatment of prisoners at HMP Dartmoor

The impact of staff shortages, uncertainty over the prison’s future, and a slow recovery from Covid restrictions, have made the past year a challenging one at HMP Dartmoor, says the Independent Monitoring Board (IMB) in its annual report for 2021/22.

Staff shortages affected outcomes for prisoners in key areas The length of time that prisoners were locked up in their cells, and the reduced access to activities and education, family communications, showers and association were considered by the Board to be neither fair nor humane.

The IMB noted:

  • The lack of capital investment over years raised safety and security issues for prisoners and staff, as well as limited access to telephones for family contact.
  • A lack of working body worn cameras had a significant impact on safety and fairness to prisoners and staff with only 5% of incidents were covered with the use of them in May and 8% in June.
  • Resettlement work was limited.
  • There was serious concern about the treatment of the significant proportion of prisoners with acute and complex needs, who require full-time or specialist care and equipment including those with mobility issues or requiring end of life care.

Chair of the Dartmoor IMB, Colin Stares, said:

“While the prison has managed over the last year to keep prisoners and staff safe during the latter stages of the pandemic, the challenge will be to improve outcomes for prisoners in purposeful activity, education, and resettlement over the next year. Major improvements in the buildings and equipment and investing in support for the growing numbers of elderly prisoners are essential.  Local prison management, staff members and contractors work hard and flexibly to maintain day-to-day safety and security, within unsatisfactory circumstances and constraints.”