'Deteriorating infrastructure' and rise in violence among concerns raised in Gartree prison report
Increased violence and deteriorating infrastructure are among the concerns highlighted in an annual report on HMP Gartree.
The Independent Monitoring Board has published its annual report on the high security jail near Market Harborough.
The board reports that, although there have been some improvements, criminal activity continues to exert influence and the fabric of the crumbling building remains ‘dark, dingy and in need of repair’.
Since last year, there has been a ‘worrying’ rise in prisoner assaults on staff, up by 10 to 53, in the last year, and an increase in attacks between prisoners of 19.
The report also observes an increase in self-harming, with incidents up by nearly 20, to 242, in 2022. Of these, 27 were classed as serious or ‘near misses’, compared to five incidents in the previous year.
However, it does note a full regime of exercise, access to the gym and work may account for a drop in prisoners experiencing low mood and depression in general.
The board also reports ‘non-existent’ improvements to the fabric and infrastructure to the prison including the showers for which, it was assured, would be completed in January.
It has demanded Justice Minister, Stuart Andrew, to confirm whether the funding bid received by HMP Gartree is still intended for the ‘unacceptable state of the showers’, and that its ‘deteriorating’ infrastructure will be addressed.
Other observations include a ‘continued influx’ of drugs, weapons, illicitly brewed alcohol and phones, although changes to operations and added detection measures has helped reduce the trading and introduction of contraband, while 25 of 42 prisoners with IPP sentences (imprisonment for public protection) are recorded as being neurodiverse or diagnosed with a mental health condition. The board raises concerns ‘little significant progress’ is being made, on a national level, in progressing them.
IMB Gartree Chair, Tim Norman, said: “While we recognise the hard work of staff, we remain concerned at the increased level of violence and are dismayed at the lack of progress on necessary repairs to the fabric and infrastructure.
“Prisoners should not have to live in, and staff should not have to work in, such conditions.”
Meanwhile, more positive feedback included supported interactions and a generally good relationship between inmates and staff, additional employment opportunities and qualifications and an improvement in the prison’s complaints system.
In response to the report, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Justice (MOJ) said: “HMP Gartree has now begun refurbishment of several wings to improve conditions and our £100million investment into security measures across the estate, including new X-ray scanners to detect contraband and weapons, is helping to reduce violence at the prison.”
The MOJ also argues self-harm and suicide rates in the prison remain lower than before the pandemic, and adds it is investing £37million over the next three years to make prisons safer. Measures include prison helplines, cells designed to deter strangulation, and further training for staff.
A Prison Service spokesman said: “HMP Gartree has now begun refurbishment of several wings to improve conditions and our £100m investment into security measures across the estate including new X-ray scanners to detect contraband and weapons is helping to reduce violence at the prison.”