Lack of staff causes ‘major problems’ at Norfolk jail

A prisoner on a landing at HMP Norwich. Picture: BILL SMITH

A prisoner on a landing at HMP Norwich. Picture: BILL SMITH - Credit: Archant © 2009

Cutbacks on staff have caused 'major problems' at a Norfolk jail, with at times as little as one officer to about 50 prisoners trying to keep order.

Norwich Prison. Picture: STEVE ADAMS

Norwich Prison. Picture: STEVE ADAMS - Credit: Steve Adams

However Norwich Prison is now recruiting to plug the gap after the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) heeded warnings from its Independent Monitoring Board (IMB), a group of volunteers scrutinising the treatment of prisoners.

Like many jails across the country, HMP Norwich has been forced to run restricted regimes as a result of cost savings from the government.

But a spokesman for the jail's IMB said: 'It hasn't worked.'

There is a feeling the move has compromised safety at the prison, with at one time just 16 officers overseeing a jail with a capacity of 793 Category B, C and D prisoners – a ratio of just less than one in 50.

Norwich Prison. Picture: BILL SMITH

Norwich Prison. Picture: BILL SMITH - Credit: Archant © 2009

On one occasion, senior managers even had to be called in to help feed prisoners.

The IMB spokesman said: 'The lack of staff has caused major problems.

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'Staffing is below what it should be for the prison to be run effectively and the prison has been running a restricted regime for the past year.

'A lot of things have happened as a consequence of this. For example, the equalities officer has had to double up doing other jobs.

Norwich Prison. Picture: STEVE ADAMS

Norwich Prison. Picture: STEVE ADAMS

'Everyone is doubling up just to make sure there are enough officers. Occasionally the senior management team have had to go in as well just to make sure everyone is fed safely.'

Less experienced employees are also deployed to help process prisoners on arrival, with 106 prisoners arriving after 7pm not being processed before 8pm in January and February last year.

On one weekend, 95hrs of gym time was lost due to staff shortages meaning a restricted regime.

While the IMB's most recent report into the work of the prison remarked on how 'staff and management strive to provide a decent and humane environment', it said they are doing so 'in extremely difficult circumstances which continue to worsen'.

The spokesman said the problems were 'not a reflection on the staff' but that they are 'entirely a reflection on the fact there aren't enough of them', adding: 'The prison staff really care and do their best.

'The government is trying to recruit more staff and they've been recruiting very rapidly.'

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