Concern for elderly prisoners - and poor visitor refreshments - at HMP Bure

The county's newest jail has been slammed in a report raising concerns for its elderly and disabled prisoners.

Refreshments available during visiting hours and long waiting times for prisoner dental appointments were also highlighted as causes for concern in the report into HMP Bure.

The prison, which houses male sex offenders, opened in November 2009 on part of the former RAF Coltishall base.

But issues raised just a few months after it opened have still not been addressed, according to the annual report of the Independent Monitoring Board (IMB) - the overseeing body that ensures the country's prisons meet standards.

One of the IMB's main concerns was the lack of 'adequate facilities for elderly and disabled offenders' - a point which was flagged up in its 2009/10 bulletin.

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The report, made public today, said: 'As we reported last year the board finds that two cells for the disabled is totally inadequate, given the size of the elderly population at the establishment.

'Whilst we acknowledge there are financial constraints at the present time we have to insist this is not a situation that can be ignored indefinitely and must be addressed sooner rather than later.'

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The document also highlighted that there was still an 'ever lengthening waiting list for dental appointments' which the IMB considered 'disappointing' and 'unacceptable' due to Bure's large population.

Waiting times to see the prison's optician, physiotherapist and stop smoking clinic had 'greatly decreased' on last year, however.

The IMB also praised the prison's learning and skills department, which runs courses including catering, cleaning, horticulture, plumbing and radio production.

But it was 'extremely concerned' government proposals to cut educational facilities will impact Bure as it does not have the 'workshop areas available to cater for the majority of offenders'.

One of the final concerns highlighted was the refreshments on offer to visitors, which are currently only catered for by vending machines and were flagged up last year.

The report said: 'Over half of complaints in the visitor complaint book are about the vending machines either not working, empty, supplying out of date goods or no healthy options.'

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