HMP Lancaster Farms report shows overcrowding in prisons and a rise in violence

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A new report into HMP Lancaster Farms has found spikes in the levels of violence, prisoner debt and substance misuse.

The Independent Monitoring Board (IMB) for HMP Lancaster Farms published its annual report on Tuesday for the reporting year 2023-24. While it showed relationships between staff and prisoners were observed to be positive, it remains concerned about the impact the changing population has had on prisoners’ day to day lives.

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One particular incident during the year gave rise to concern when a prisoner, who had been taken to hospital, had been uncuffed due to his treatment but proceeded to leave his bed/ward. He was accompanied by staff at all times, but it raised issues about how the prison maintains prisoner/public safety in all settings.

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The report also found: The prison, like those elsewhere across England and Wales, is full to capacity.

This has resulted in some men sharing cells designed to accommodate one, with little privacy, particularly when using the in-cell toilet and telephony.

There was high levels of self-harm among a small handful of prisoners, many of whom have challenging and complex mental health needs, yet continue to be accommodated at the establishment rather than transferred to more specialist and secure mental health facilities.

During the reporting year, there were spikes in the levels of violence, prisoner debt and substance misuse.

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As in previous reports, the Board noted that a minority of prisoners continue to be accommodated on occasions in double cells, with limited toilet screening and/or no toilet seats.

Whilst it is now normal for prisoners to eat out of their cells, there are still occasions whereby, during lockdowns, prisoners are forced to eat inside their cells next to their toilets.

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Use of force incidents had increased by 96 per cent over the reporting year.

Prisoners’ personal property continues to go missing on transfer, leaving some men without their belongings when they arrive at the prison.

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On the other end, the Board added that it remains impressed by the employment hub and the development of new employment opportunities for men on release, supporting the prison in its function as a resettlement prison.

Prisoners at HMP Lancaster Farms are treated fairly and humanely, with considerable care taken by prison staff to treat them with decency and respect.

In-cell telephony has also continued to work well at the prison by enabling prisoners to contact friends and family.

Robin Talbot, IMB Chair of HMP Lancaster Farms, said: “We see good interaction between staff and prisoners on our regular visits to the prison.

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“This is even more relevant when you realise the enormous pressure the prison estate is under as a whole.

“While the Board has reported a number of positive findings, there are recommendations for the new Prisons Minister to address.”

He added: “There is a clear need to increase the number of specialist secure settings to care for those prisoners with complex and enduring mental health conditions.

“More resources are required to maintain a prison now over 30 years old and to support the accommodation of its increased population.

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“In addition, something needs to be done about the amount of personal property that goes missing on transfer between prisons.”

HMP Lancaster Farms is a category C resettlement prison (for those whose escape risk is considered low but who cannot be trusted in an open prison), with accommodation for up to 5601 adult male prisoners during the reporting year.

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