7th Aug, 2020

Prison took effective action against pandemic - but prisoners were left frustrated with extreme restrictions

Laura Kearns 22nd Jun, 2020

A WARWICKSHIRE prison has been found to have taken effective early action against coronavirus, but prisoners were left frustrated with the extreme restrictions.

HMP Rye Hill near Rugby houses around 650 sex offenders and an inspection ten weeks into lockdown found it took quick action managing the pandemic and kept the site calm, well ordered and safe.

Inspectors from HM Inspectorate of Prisons also found prisoners were frustrated with the extreme restrictions, which meant 23 hours a day locked in cells for most prisoners.

Those in a high risk category due to age or underlying condition – around ten per cent of the prison population – put systems in place to shield them from the virus.

Most prisoners could shower each day and had access to phones and exercise.

Inspector Peter Clarke said cleaning was good and prisoners were given activity packs and workbooks to help pass the time.

Rye Hill also created an information channel to provide stimulation and entertainment books.

As in all other prisons, visits had ceased and prisoners had not seen their family and friends for nearly three months.

Mr Clarke added: “Prisons of this type typically house a compliant population and this had remained the case throughout lockdown. However, it was clear that prisoners were becoming more frustrated by the restrictions in place and the impact they were having on their mental health, their families and their ability to progress.

“While this report highlights some successes in keeping the prison population safe during the pandemic, it also points to some of the negative and unintended consequences of continuous restriction and demonstrates the need to take steps to restore a safe, more reasonable and purposeful regime as soon as possible.”

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