Norwich: Concerns For Prison

A recent inspection of Norwich prison has found that despite some improvements, inmates feel bullied, some are afraid to leave their cells and one wing was so understaffed it wasn't safe.

Norwich prison is overcrowded and holds a complex mix of remand and sentenced prisoners and young adults.

The last inspection in January 2012 identified some serious concerns and inspectors returned to check progress more quickly than usual.

Inspectors were pleased to find that:

  •  Vulnerable prisoners had been moved from the threatening environment on A wing and most were now held in a better and calmer  environment on C wing and had a better regime

  • The number of violent incidents and the use of force had fallen

  • The number of prisoners at risk of suicide or self-harm who were being managed on open ACCTs (assessment, care in custody and teamwork case management) had fallen

  • The segregation unit offered a better environment

  • The care and management of older prisoners and young adults was better than inspectors normally see

  • Prisoners had more time out of cell and there were more activity places available

  • There had been improvements in the quantity and quality of learning, skills and work since the last inspection, though more was required

However, inspectors had some concerns:

  • The numbers of prisoners on open ACCTs, though reduced, was still high and care was inadequate in too many cases

  • Prisoners who were the victims of bullying felt unsupported and inspectors found some prisoners too frightened to leave their cells

  • The prison was not sighted on the true levels of violence and bullying

  • Problems were most acute on A wing which acted as a first night and induction centre and a centre for those receiving treatment for drug and alcohol misuse

  • Many prisoners on open ACCTs were held on A wing and staffing levels were completely inadequate to manage the mixed population safely

  • Prisoner mentors were being used to conduct sensitive first night interviews with new arrivals, which was dangerous and open to abuse

  • Staff were stretched across the prison and prisoners sometimes struggled to get basic issues, such as mail, sorted out

  • Many prisoners assessed as having poor literacy and numeracy were unwilling to address this

  • Offender management was not central to the work of the prison, though most practical resettlement services were adequate.

Chief Inspector of Prisons Nick Hardwick, who published the report, said: “HMP Norwich has made progress since our last inspection. The treatment and conditions of prisoners was satisfactory and they had good practical help to prepare them for release.

"The treatment of older prisoners and young adults was very good. Prisoners in Britannia House had very good opportunities to obtain and keep a job on release. However, there were still too many exceptions: not enough prisoners had an activity place, too many services were inconsistent and, of most concern, A wing was not safe. The issues on A wing need to be addressed as a matter of urgency and we hope this report will help the prison to do this and to make the sustained improvements required.”

Michael Spurr, Chief Executive Officer of the National Offender Management Service (NOMS), said: "Norwich is a complex prison and I am pleased that this report acknowledges the progress it has made, which is to the credit of the Governor and his staff.

"As the Chief Inspector points out there is more to do - and the Governor has taken action to address these issues, particularly on A Wing."

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