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Concerns about Elmley Prison in Eastchurch raised in Independent Monitoring Board report

Staff shortages, inmate overcrowding and one of the highest sickness levels in the country continue to affect a Kent jail, a report has found.

The Independent Monitoring Board’s (IMB) annual inspection of HMP Elmley released today also revealed the Eastchurch site is losing workers at such a rate recruitment is unable to keep up.

It notes a “recurring theme” of a lack of personnel which has meant the site has not been able to meet a minimum staffing requirement, even when allowing for employees going home ill.

A view from the inside of one of the cells
A view from the inside of one of the cells

The report says: “It is particularly difficult to see how Elmley can possibly function as a resettlement prison until the staffing issues are resolved.”

The prison continues to house prisoners with mental health problems due to a lack of places in dedicated secure mental health facilities.

There were six deaths in custody within 12 months, three of which appear to be suicides, compared to two the previous year.

The IMB raised concerns with a delay in inquests into the deaths of these prisoners, which although has been improving, still represents an “inordinate” amount of time for families to have to wait.

Elmley Prison
Elmley Prison

At the end of the reporting period, which ran from November 1, 2013, to October 31 last year, there were 70 single cells housing three or more inmates – down from 81 in last year’s report – something the report descried as “unacceptable” and “a breach of human rights”.

An initiative called New Ways of Working, designed to improve efficiency, could not be implemented due to low staffing levels and resulted in the management replacing it with its own emergency scheme last summer.

The report said: “This created more certainty and resulted in a much calmer acceptance of the status quo and allowed the prison to function effectively.”

A change of the prison IT platform also proved to be, “almost a complete disaster”.

The IMB is now seeking a response to its concerns from prisons minister, Andrew Selous

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