A REPORT on HMP/YOI Portland has raised concerns that mixing adult prisoners and young offenders has led to an increase in the trade of drugs.
The Independent Monitoring Board has just released its latest report which covers the year up until March 31, 2014.
The report praises the HMP/ YOI’s resilience in a ‘period of rapid and significant changes,’ including ‘the continuation of the changeover to becoming a local and resettlement prison, the introduction of adults, the change to New Ways of Working and the core day as well as financial stringency and a period of disruption due to major works on the site’.
Staff and management were praised for their hard work especially with regard to resettlement, a decrease in the number of cell-smashing incidents after financial penalties were introduced, a new working day regime, improved facilities for fresh air and exercise and more drug and alcohol interventions.
Officers’ positive attitudes and ability to adapt to the changes were praised. The IMB said they recognised the workload of the reduced number of uniformed staff was greater and more stressful.
The report noted many areas of concern, although it said many issues could not be solved by the HMP/YOI Portland in isolation.
The report said that many adults and young offenders had to go without regular formal activities at workshops or in education and therefore spent much of their time locked up.
The IMB said: “The board remains worried about the impact of the change of categorisation, which has meant that more than half the population are now adults, many of them sophisticated criminals.”
The report said this had led to an influx of drugs, tradable ‘legal’ substances and other associated illegal objects.
The IMB added: “Trading of these substances and of illegal drugs led to debt and bullying, both of which appear to have increased during the year.”
While commending the YOI for becoming a resettlement prison, the report questioned why Portland is not a resettlement prison for Dorset prisoners but rather for those from Avon and Somerset, Wiltshire and Gloucestershire.
In the policy matters for ministers section, the IMB report said: “The board would question whether the prison could continue to function humanely and efficiently at even the most basic level, if there are further financial cuts.
“Do Ministers accept the paradox whereby Dorset resettlement prisoners are allocated to Channings Wood, Exeter and Winchester instead of to Portland and will they instruct the prison service to address the matter?”
An MOJ spokesperson said the facility had been transformed into a resettlement prison so family ties could be maintained, therefore helping to rehabilitate offenders and providing an incentive to stay out of prison.
He said: “We have also made it clear that the use of illicit substances will not be tolerated, and use a range of measures to find them, including searches and specially trained dogs.”
Recruitment day held for YOI
EARLIER this month the YOI held a recruitment day to gain more staff to help provide purposeful activity.
Staff said they were looking for people who wanted to make a difference to people’s lives.
Following a recent inspection by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons (HMIP), which highlighted more purposeful activity was needed, YOI staff told the Echo they had already put steps in place to tackle this, including launching the recruitment drive.
Speaking at the time of the recruitment initiative, Governor James Lucas, said: “The YOI is in a time of change. As of today we have 400 adult prisoners and 173 young adults. There’s been a fundamental shift in the area of prisoners coming in.”
As of the beginning of August, 63 per cent of the men are in work or training – 200 work in the kitchens, laundry, recycling and workshops and around 150 are doing courses with Weston College. Staff said that once the new instructors are in place that will increase the activity places by up to 200.
The Echo got to see the workshops and how the YOI works with businesses to provide work and training, including working with a vacuum cleaner firm to create parts for their products and creating biofuel from cardboard. Other courses include woodworking, painting and decorating, agriculture, cooking, construction and bricklaying.