CONCERNS have been raised about a lack of support and funding for prisoners being released into the community - amid claims that far more inmates are being freed from a sex offenders jail on Portland than originally planned.

The Independent Monitoring Board (IMB) for HMP The Verne says in its 2022-23 annual report there is a lack of funding "even though the number released from the Verne annually is now nearly a quarter of the prison population".

It says the necessary funding has not been made available to prepare these men for release, and it has expressed concerns over the level of resettlement provision offered.

This directly impacts the chances of prisoners’ successful reintegration back into the community, the IMB claims.

The board understands that 128 prisoners were subject to conditional release during the reporting period (77 prisoners in the previous year). It says this is a "very significant number for an establishment which is not a resettlement prison - especially given the shortage of staff in the offender management unit".

The Verne, a former citadel built to defend Portland Harbour, operated as a prison from 1949 until 2013 before becoming an immigration removal centre for three years.

It re-opened in July 2018 as a category C prison for men convicted of sexual offences (PCOSO) and holds about 600 prisoners.

Inmates include disgraced paedophile pop star Gary Glitter - real name Paul Gadd - who this week lost a Parole Board bid to be freed from the jail.

Every prison has to be to be monitored by an independent board from members of the local community. Members of the board have right of access to every prisoner and every part of the prison and also to the prison’s records.

The report states when The Verne reopened in 2018 it was "not envisaged that any of the prisoners would be released directly from the establishment" - so no funding was made available.

It claims there is still no funding "even though the number released is now nearly a quarter of the prison population" - 128 out of 600 inmates.

The report says: "The Verne allocated one of its staff to work on resettlement but with funding taken from other areas of the budget. Unfortunately, the person left the prison during the year, as did (an information and guidance advisor); these posts have now been filled but there was a brief hiatus in the service."

Chairman of IMB The Verne, Michael Ellis, said: “The senior management have done a remarkable job juggling the budget to create a specialist resettlement post.

“However, while we recognise the dedication of staff, this model is not sustainable given that almost a quarter of the men in The Verne are being released straight into the community; it therefore has a considerable resettlement role and should be funded as such.”

On a positive note, the IMB also found that the prison continues to offer a safe environment for prisoners, and the opening of a social care unit serving the needs of frail and elderly prisoners has been welcome.

Three prisoners have also achieved an honours degree from the Open University.

It was found that overall, The Verne is generally safe, and instances of violence remain rare, with disruptive behaviour dealt with promptly and firmly.

The board recognised the continuing efforts of the staff to maintain a stable and safe regime within the prison and is aware of a shortage of purposeful activities, a high turnover, and an increased numbers of younger arrivals.

There were five reported deaths in custody during the 2023-24 period, and one in September 2022, was allegedly self-inflicted.

Prisoners who threaten self-harm are placed on an Assessment Care in Custody Teamwork (ACCT) order and carefully monitored. The board reported that this new system appears to be working satisfactorily.

A Prison Service spokesperson said:  “The prison has recently opened a small unit with 24 hour social care provision to meet the needs of prisoners requiring additional care. We are also considering options locally to allow the prison to continue to provide a resettlement service.

“We are pleased the report recognises that The Verne is safe, with instances of violence remaining rare, and mutual respect between staff and prisoners."