Guernsey Press

Prison officers face health risks

PRISON OFFICERS being unaware that a prisoner has a transmittable blood disease or a mental health condition are two of the concerns raised in this year’s report from the prison’s Independent Monitoring Panel.

(Picture by Peter Frankland, 24838778)

The report also highlights concerns over the fabric and maintenance of the building, illicit drugs finding their way into prison, the continued brewing of hooch by prisoners, the handling of detoxification from drugs, e-cigarettes, prison population growth and prisoners needing access to bank accounts.

Being unaware that a prisoner who was bleeding had a transmittable blood disease could potentially be a danger to prison officers, said the report, particularly if the prisoner needed to be physically restrained.

It said also that it was important officers knew more about prisoners’ mental health, and recommended that a mental health professional be added to the prison’s health care team.

Relevant information about a prisoner’s physical and mental conditions needed to be shared with officers.

In his introduction to the report, new IMP chairman Tony Talmage wrote: ‘The prison continues to be an institution that the island can be proud of. It treats its charges humanely and with respect while encouraging them to improve their lives and integrate back into the community in a meaningful way.’

The IMP conducts regular visits to the prison, including monthly unannounced ones in which it monitors concerns raised by prisoners.

Of the issues raised during these visits in 2018, 12 related to the fabric or maintenance of the prison building – twice the number of similar concerns raised the previous year.

In relation to these 12 concerns, the IMP had made 11 enquiries.

The report expresses concern about a lack of progress on the refurbishment of J Wing, which it said was the subject of most complaints about accommodation.

The showers, in particular, were an issue, and it calls for their refurbishment to be made a priority.

On the plus side, the report said there had been a number of positive developments during the year.

These included the installation of in-cell computer terminals which gave prisoners the ability to pursue their education as well as manage areas of prison life such as booking visits, menu choices and complaints.

A new Team Around the Prisoner scheme is being brought in which will improve prisoner induction, said the report, addressing a concern raised last year that the process made it almost impossible for new prisoners to retain essential information.

Mention is also made of the drone defence system, Skyfence, and plans to build a steel portal frame workshop for up to 16 prisoners to work and learn in each day under tutored provision and allow Creative Learning in Prison to take on more ambitious projects.

Another innovation will be the bringing in of an ‘on-screen’ visits portal where prisoners will have supervised screen-time with loved ones when personal visits are not possible.

The report concluded by saying that the IMP was aware that the nature of Guernsey Prison means it faces unique challenges, particularly since it has to cater for all sections of the community in 12 wings, from adult men and women to young offenders, children and vulnerable prisoners with varying lengths of sentences, security categories and also those on remand.

‘Separation of these disparate groups, avoiding disputes, intimate relationships, bullying and perceived unfair treatment, is not easy and the panel congratulates prison management on achieving relative harmony under these conflicting circumstances.’