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Temporary solution to prison overcrowding 8 March 2007

TWO male prisoners have been re-located to cells on the female wing as a temporary measure to ease overcrowding at the Isle of Man Prison on Victoria Road, Douglas.

Acting Prison Governor Tony Hawkes explained:

‘Problems with overcrowding are periodically faced at Victoria Road jail and have been well publicised in the past. The prison management looks at every option open to us to best accommodate prisoners for the duration of their custodial sentence.
'Currently there are two female prisoners in the female wing which is two storey accommodation with five cells on the ground floor and six cells on the first floor. A number of male prisoners have been risk assessed to transfer to the female wing, and prison management identified two male prisoners who could be accommodated there. They have been allocated cells on a different floor to the female prisoners. The floors have separate access, separate landings and separate communal areas.
‘Prison management recognises that this is not an ideal solution but the alternative is to release more prisoners early on licence. Two prisoners have been released on temporary licence this week, a total of four days and nine days before their scheduled sentence completion date.
’The Department of Home Affairs has a policy of not giving out details of individual prisoners so is unable to provide further information about the prisoners who were considered the lowest risk to be accommodated in the female wing. However, it can reassure the public that extensive risk assessments have been undertaken by experienced prison officers and management prior to transferring male prisoners to the female wing.'

Home Affairs Minister Martyn Quayle MHK said:

‘This is a temporary solution to overcrowding at the prison which has been operating at or close to capacity for some considerable time. Alternative solutions would be to release more prisoners before completion of their sentence or to consider an option to allocate three prisoners to twin cells by installing bunk beds. That would be against the recommendations of Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons and would only be done as an emergency measure.
‘We look forward to moving the prison population to Jurby early next year which will alleviate the overcrowding problems we have at present, as well as offering much improved rehabilitative and educational opportunities for prisoners. I wish to express the Department’s gratitude to prison officers and staff who continue to work in a challenging environment.’

Mr Hawkes added:

'This will be a temporary measure. Returning male prisoners to the male accommodation will be our priority as soon as the prison population reduces. It is a short-term measure and we are actively considering other options for the future including electronic tagging of prisoners who could be released early.
‘Also, the Isle of Man Prison is currently in discussion with the British Home Office to return a British national to a UK prison which could potentially free more space.’

The Isle of Man’s new £41.7million prison at Jurby is scheduled to become operational early in 2008. It has a maximum of 138 cells of which 117 will be commissioned at the time of opening, compared with 92 places at Victoria Road (including the 11 female places). The new prison will be able to offer better rehabilitative and educational regimes for prisoners.

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