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Report of Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Prisons Inspection of the Isle of Man Prison 11 September 2006

The Department of Home Affairs announced on the 11th September 2006 the results of a full, announced inspection of the Isle of Man Prison carried out between 20 – 24 March 2006. The results of the inspection can be read in full in the Report published by the Chief Inspector of Prisons on the same day and also downloaded from the Government web-site.

The report follows a previous inspection in 2001 which identified areas of weakness and encouraged the island to press forward with plans to build a new prison. The inspection gave the Inspection Team the opportunity to gauge progress made since the last report and to offer guidance and support to the Governor, staff of the prison and the Department to develop the new prison regimes and procedures.

The Minister advised the Chief Inspector that he expected the Isle of Man Prison to provide decent conditions, opportunities for prisoners to change their lives for the better and standards that reach those expected elsewhere in the British Isles and that were appropriate to the needs of the Isle of Man. The Governor and staff of the prison would be expected to deliver this in the new prison at Jurby and progress towards these objectives should be evidenced at the existing site in the interim.

The Report identified areas of strengths and weaknesses. The inspectors recognised the strength of staff/prisoner relationships, progress in the personal Officer Scheme, good practice in receiving prisoners, attending to their basic needs and managing prisoners with respect. However there continued to be procedural weaknesses in a broad range of areas that need to be addressed. In particular, further policies and procedures needed to be developed in the areas of anti-bullying, induction, first night arrangements race relations and suicide awareness. The inspection team did, however note the comparatively low levels of self harm and suicide incidents within the prison.

The inspection team did note some progress with educational provision but remained disappointed at the lack of constructive regime activities for prisoners. The inspection team recognised the limited scope that exists to increase educational and work activity at the existing prison. The new prison project team are currently working to ensure that enhanced work, education and skills training opportunities are available at Jurby and that a high priority is placed on prisoners utilising these.

Resettlement services at the existing prison were also criticised by the inspectors. They felt that insufficient progress had been made in this area and too much reliance was placed upon the work of a single Probation Officer in the prison. These concerns are now being addressed by closer working between the prison and probation services and examination of an offender management model that will provide a coordinated plan for managing an offender through pre-custody, custody and resettlement back in the community. The new prison will have an additional probation officer and provision for offending behaviour courses geared towards the needs of prisoners.

Particular criticism from the inspection team is directed at healthcare provision at the prison. Here, the inspectors found that prisoners were not receiving the level of healthcare that would be expected in the community, there was no evidence of healthcare needs assessment of the prison population, no linking of healthcare provision in the prison to the Island’s health service and, in some cases some unsafe prescribing practice. The Inspection report makes 30 recommendations to improve healthcare provision at the prison which are accepted by the Governor and the Department of Home Affairs. Work had begun, before the visit of the inspection team, to hand over responsibility to the Island’s Health Service in order that medical services within the prison can be delivered to the same standards as in the community and to ensure that healthcare staff working in the prison are properly managed, supported and trained. A Clinical Manager will be appointed shortly to help drive these objectives forward.

The previous inspection, in 2001, levelled particular criticism at the facilites available for children at the prison. The inspection team were pleased to see that juveniles are no longer held at the prison but recommended that 17 year olds were also removed from the prison environment and placed in secure social services accommodation. This issue will be addressed in conjunction with the Department of Health and Social Security and the Attorney General’s Chambers.

The prison has, over recent months, received an increasing number of persons detained for immigration purposes. This was evidenced by the inspection team during their visit. The Chief Inspector recommends that foreign nationals who are immigration detainees and who have not been charged or convicted of criminal offences are not held ion the prison. Additionally the Inspector made some recommendations about the development of race relations policies and monitoring within the prison. No evidence of unfair or inappropriate treatment of ethnic minorities or foreign nationals was found and there was some evidence of good, prompt practice in the treatment of immigration detainees from prison staff. The Department of Home Affairs and Senior Prison Managers recognise that the number of foreign nationals received at the prison is likely to rise and that proper, formalised arrangements should be put in place to manage them. At present no other suitable, secure accommodation exists on the Isle of Man to hold persons detained for immigration purposes.

Services for prisoners, such as catering and the prison shop were generally considered to be satisfactory and the prison will work to implement the recommendations made. Prisoners currently eat meals in their cells and, although inspectors recommend that they should be allowed to eat meals communally, this will not be possible until the new prison is occupied.

The Inspection team did not feel that the Island’s prison was suitable for the long term management of Life Sentence Prisoners. This is a view shared by senior managers in the prison and the Department of Home Affairs. The Attorney General’s Chambers are currently being consulted in order to resolve the current situation where three Life Sentence prisoners are currently being held at the prison. The Department maintains its opinion that transfers to United Kingdom prisons is the most appropriate method of managing those convicted and sentenced to Life terms.

Many of the recommendations have been incorporated into the design and operating principles for the new prison and the task ahead will now be to ensure that they are implemented at Jurby. The report is regarded as a helpful and constructive document which will assist with the formulation of policies and practice at the new prison, which is now underway. The prison has to develop formal policies across the whole range of prison activity in order to provide a consistent approach to the delivery of regimes, services, security and control. The staff of the prison already demonstrate a generally high standard of care for prisoners, but standards need to be developed further to govern their work. The Chief Inspector of Prisons has set out a range of expectations which we will incorporate into our policies and the recommendations made will help us prioritise the improvements we need to put in place.

The prison had seen some improvement since the inspection in 2001 but there is a requirement to drive forward higher standards and formal procedures. The new prison at Jurby offered an excellent opportunity to achieve this and the Department will expect the Governor and staff to deliver a prison that meets the standards required.

The Minister, Mr John Shimmin, MHK has stated that the Department welcomes external examination of the services provided and will act on the recommendations contained in the report. Further, whilst a New Prison will assist to address many of the shortcomings identified in the report, as much as possible will be done, in terms of regime development, prior to the move to the New Prison at Jurby. I wish to extend my thanks to the inspection team and I hope that when they return after the New Prison is operational, that significant improvements will be demonstrable.

A copy of the report can also be found on the Government website

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