Norfolk sex offender jail praised for protecting inmates from Covid
- Credit: Archant
A Norfolk prison holding nearly 600 convicted sex offenders, many of them high-risk, has been praised for protecting inmates and staff from coronavirus.
Inspectors said HMP Bure, built on the former RAF Coltishall site, and a specialist prison for sex offenders, had “dealt effectively with the threat from Covid-19”.
More than half the prisoners are aged over 50 and a third were considered clinically vulnerable to the virus.
In total Norfolk’s prisons saw almost 600 prisoners and 250 staff catch the virus over the winter period.
Although one prisoner had died of a Covid-19-related illness at HMS Bure, there had been no confirmed cases on the residential unit where the most clinically vulnerable and many shielding prisoners were located.
Face masks were worn by staff and prisoners alike and uptake of regular Covid testing was high amongst staff at the time of the visit by HM Inspectorate of Prisons in March.
More than 40pc of prisoners had received their first vaccination.
Charlie Taylor, HM Chief Inspector of Prisons, said: “Attention to Covid-19-safe procedures was particularly impressive.
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“Shielding and quarantine arrangements had been applied rigorously to minimise the spread of the virus.
“The potentially more serious consequences for an older and, in many cases, frailer population had been avoided during a recent Covid-19 outbreak.”
Inspectors also found the prison to be calm and well ordered, with low levels of violence and use of force by staff.
Levels of self-harm had reduced in the past 12 months, though the rate was still higher than at some similar prisons.
There had been two self-inflicted deaths during the pandemic. The demand for Listeners - prisoners trained by the Samaritans to provide confidential emotional support to fellow prisoners - was very high.
The amount of time unlocked for most prisoners was less than two hours a day, which included 45 minutes’ access to the exercise yard.
Without in-cell phones, there was not enough time or privacy for calls, which were limited to only five minutes, on the communal telephones, the report states.
Mr Taylor said: “The prison had managed well in protecting its frail and older population from the virus. The committed and caring leadership and staff group had maintained a safe, decent and very respectful prison despite the challenges of the pandemic.”