Staff shortages and drug problems at Dartmoor Prison

Ben Fox
Ben Fox

Staff shortages at Dartmoor Prison have led to a range of problems including increasing levels of self-harm among inmates and prisoners being locked in their cells for long periods of time, according to a new report.

Difficulties surrounding the import of new psychoactive substances – also known as Spice – and struggles in dealing with the ageing prison population are also highlighted in the latest report by the Independent Monitoring Board, which covers from October 1, 2016, to September 30, 2017.

The Board’s members noted how the prison had been ‘held back from recruiting new staff by Government initiatives to prioritise identified prisons’, and that staff numbers have continued to fall through retirement, promotion elsewhere and secondment.

They added that they had become ‘alarmed’ at ‘escalating restrictions’ on the prisoners’ regime, resulting in long periods of prisoners being locked in their cells, causing a loss of exercise and other basic rights such as the opportunity to shower and to make phone calls.

The IMB said its main areas of concern for HMP Dartmoor were the ‘serious effect on prisoners caused by the long period of staff shortage’, ‘increasing levels of self-harm in particular during the last two months’ of the reporting period, the ‘continuing problems with loss of property, largely in transport from other prisons’, ‘lengthy delays, expensive and inefficient service provided by Carillion’, the ‘increasing drain on staffing required to escort the burgeoning elderly population to outpatients’ appointments and to bed-watching those admitted to hospital’.

In addition, the Board highlighted the difficulties caused by the import of illegal substances, tobacco and new psychoactive substances.

Concerns were also raised that HMP Dartmoor ‘still has not been offered the required Sex Offender Treatment Programmes for offenders to address their offending behaviour and complete their sentence plans’.

The Board notes how the increase in the sex offender population and the removal of these programmes from HMP Dartmoor ‘has left too many prisoners without proper provision’.

The Board commended the ‘strong and reasonable leadership’ of the prison during a ‘trying period’ but noted the staff shortages were ‘having a significant negative impact’ on prisoners.

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