How the cutbacks are hitting Gartree Prison

Gartree Prison in the Harborough district NNL-141027-120200001
Gartree Prison in the Harborough district NNL-141027-120200001

Austerity measures that are affecting many aspects of public life are now clearly showing at Gartree Prison, a prison inspector has told the Mail.

Chris Wood, chair of the Independent Monitoring Board (IMB) which reports annually on the prison, said: “If you keep cutting and cutting, you reach a point where you can’t go any further.

“We are now very close to the edge in many areas - health authorities, local government - and prisons.”

Gartree Prison, three miles north of Market Harborough, is home to 702 prisoners, many serving life sentences.

“We need general re-investing in this whole enterprise” said Mr Wood.

“They are closing down Victorian prisons, but we’re seeing a lot of issues with more recent estates that need refurbishing.

“We need to invest more in prisons, and that includes investing in staffing levels.”

Gartree’s prison governor has requested a review of staffing levels. Mr Wood said the board supports this.

“Prison officer numbers have gone down” said Mr Wood.

“That’s been recognised, and now newly-qualified people are coming into the service to bring numbers back up.”

The annual report for 2014/15 published by the IMB, also highlights concerns about the quality and quantity of work for Gartree prisoners.

Mr Wood said his “wish list” for 2015/16 would include more productive work for prisoners.

“The aim is to rehabilitate people, and useful work is an essential part of that rehabilitation” he said.

He added that he would also be looking for prisoners with mental health issues to be moved to secure hospitals.

“There are people in our prisons who really shouldn’t be there” he explained.