During the first quarter of the year of 2020, there were noticeable reductions in violence and assaults. More activities were available to prisoners, and the numbers in work and education were showing signs of increasing.
From March until December, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the regime completely changed. The Governor and staff rightly altered the operation and day-today running of the prison with the new objective of keeping prisoners and staff as safe as possible and free of infection. The Board maintained both direct and remote monitoring throughout this period and has been able to follow the management process by remotely attending the Governor’s daily briefings. The Board has also observed excellent communication methods to consult and explain to prisoners in advance the nature of regime changes, which have largely been accepted. The regime has been tailored imaginatively to the particular circumstances of Long Lartin.
Progress since March has been significantly compromised by the COVID-19 pandemic. The imposition of a severely restricted regime with long periods of lockdown, cessation of most activities and reduced association would not be acceptable under any other circumstances.
However, the Governor and senior staff were quick to intervene and to impose this regime in order to prevent COVID-19 infections from spreading within the establishment, and for nine months they were successful.
Unfortunately, COVID-19 cases were recorded in the prison early in December and infections increased rapidly, causing anxiety within both prisoner and staff populations. (At the beginning of January 2021, there are encouraging signs that infections are under control and numbers reducing.)
These are made in the light of the COVID-19 challenges faced by the prison and the
rapidly changing situation during the reporting year.
How safe is the prison?
The Board believes that the prison offers a safe environment to the prisoners. Over
recent months, in common with most establishments, there have been serious
staffing shortages. While these have been well managed, any such shortfall poses a
potential risk to the safety both of staff and prisoners.
How fairly and humanely are prisoners treated?
Given the restrictions placed on prisoners by COVID-19, the Board believes that
their treatment by staff is largely fair and consistent. The cells on four wings lack
running water and sanitation, falling below modern standards of decency for about
half of all prisoners. The Board believes that action on this by the government is long overdue. We are also concerned that prisoners remain in the segregation unit for extended periods for lack of more suitable alternatives. We recognise the knowledge and understanding by staff of the prisoners in their care, and their receptiveness to prisoners’ daily needs. The number of prison complaints submitted, however, remains high, with property being a key issue.
How well are prisoners’ health and wellbeing needs met?
Within the exceptional constraints caused by the need to minimise the spread of COVID-19 and mandatory exceptional delivery models (EDMs), prison managers and healthcare staff have worked hard to maintain a reasonable standard of health and wellbeing. However, it is expected that the combined effect of long periods of confinement to their cells, greatly reduced opportunities to engage in activities, association, face-to-face contact with teachers and clinicians, and a shortage of hospital appointments will have adversely affected many of the prisoners throughout this reporting period.
How well are prisoners progressed (towards successful resettlement)?
Most prisoners in HMP Long Lartin will serve many years in custody, often beyond retirement age. Reasonable education provision has been maintained throughout the year, whereas vocational training and work have been understandably sporadic. Very few prisoners are released directly from the establishment, and progression this year has been limited.