In its annual report for 2021-22, the Independent Monitoring Board (IMB) at Lancaster Farms found the prison is facing a challenge in respect of recruiting sufficient staff.
This staff shortage had led to reductions in some out-of-cell activities.
The overall level of staffing for mental health services as well as staff shortages in general was a matter of concern raised by the board.
And they have asked the Minister for Justice to look at better funding the prison service for the growth and maintenance of effective staffing levels.
They also recommended the prison service conduct a wide-ranging review of prison staffing, to address the loss of experienced staff and of the large percentage of new staff that leave within 12 months of recruitment.
Other areas of concern highlighted in the review included high levels of self-harm among a small number of prisoners, many of whom have challenging and complex mental health needs.
The board felt those with serious mental health issues should be transferred to more specialist and secure mental health facilities.
Rehabilitation activities were curtailed for much of the reporting year.
They asked that the minister looked at ways to further improve the strategies available to the prison to manage and reduce the number of incidents of self-harm.
However, the board noted that the prison succeeded in continuing to provide a safe environment for prisoners and meet most primary healthcare needs.
IMB Lancaster Farms chair Robin Talbot said: “We were impressed by the positive nature of the everyday prison environment at Lancaster Farms: good relationships between staff and prisoners; good healthcare and well-equipped education and gym facilities.
"We recognise the challenges that the pandemic raised for the prison service. However, the most vulnerable prisoners, such as those with severe mental health problems, need more support.
"In addition, the prison faces the end of the Covid lockdown with shortages in staff and the need to re-focus its energies on resettlement activity.
"As a board we are keen to see that prisoners ending their sentences at Lancaster Farms have jobs, accommodation and support when they leave the prison.”