Bedbugs, overcrowding, violence; Norwich Prison life revealed in report

Norwich Prison. Photo : Steve Adams

Norwich Prison. Photo : Steve Adams - Credit: Steve Adams

Staff shortages, inexperienced prison officers, high levels of violence, illicit substances and an infestation of bedbugs are among the issues in a damning Norwich Prison report.

Prisoner Lee, who has beaten his drug addiction, on a landing at Norwich Prison; Photo: Bill Smith;

Prisoner Lee, who has beaten his drug addiction, on a landing at Norwich Prison; Photo: Bill Smith; Copy: Ben Kendall; For: EDP; Archant © 2009; 01603 772434 - Credit: Archant © 2009

The annual report of the Independent Monitoring Board (IMB) of the Knox Road jail, for the year March 2019 to February 2020, found there were not enough members of staff to be able to “sustain the safety and decency of this overcrowded prison”.

Staff members were also found to be inexperienced and within their first two years of service, meaning that some officers did not “challenge poor behaviour robustly”.

Other findings of the IMB included:

• Recorded levels of violence are high, and a one-fifth of prisoners reported they felt unsafe.

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• Although the number of serious assaults on staff has decreased, there has been an upsurge of spitting and throwing of urine/faeces.

• Levels of self-harm are high.

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• Illicit substances are easily obtainable.

• A major relocation of prisoners took place in August last year due to a bed bug infestation.

The report, which was published on Wednesday (July 8), describes how the IMB was of the opinion “the prison has deteriorated in many areas”.

The board said the majority of staff worked hard in a “challenging, relentless and complex prison” to try to achieve an ordered and rehabilitative environment.

But progress at Norwich Prison and the staff’s commitment to decent treatment of prisoners continued to be undermined by an inadequate number of staff, compounded by too many inexperienced officers.

Other issues found include a lack of assurance of diversity and inclusion, shortages of basic items reaching the wings like cleaning materials, soap, toilet rolls, in-cell furniture and frequent breakdowns of important housekeeping equipment (washing machines and tumble dryers, kitchen cookers and freezers).

A spokesman for the IMB, which is made up of volunteers appointed by ministers to ensure prisoners are treated humanely, said: “More officers would give more support for prisoners resulting in more positive rehabilitative outcomes.”

The Ministry of Justice has been contacted for comment.

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