Open prison’s issues laid bare in inspector’s report

HMP North Sea Camp, Freiston. EMN-140319-132541001
HMP North Sea Camp, Freiston. EMN-140319-132541001

Issues around drugs, staffing levels and bullying have been spelled out in a report about North Sea Camp open prison.

HM Chief Inspector of Prisons Nick Hardwick carried out an unannounced inspection of the Freiston Shore facility in July of this year.

On Tuesday he released a report which said improvements had been made, but more work was needed.

Concerns revolved around staff shortages at the prison, the safe processing of day release licences, bullying and the availability of ‘new psychoactive’ substances.

The inspection followed a national review into three ‘release on temporary licence’ (ROTL) cases, described as a ‘series of catastrophic failures’ - including one at North Sea Camp.

He has submitted a separate report on one case – involving an inmate said to have committed a serious offence on day release – to the Justice Secretary which will be released at a later date.

Mr Hardwick said that while looking at that case in summer 2013 he found ROTL was being seen as an ‘automatic entitlement rather than a carefully controlled privilege’ but felt by this July the process had improved and was ‘much safer’.

He raised concerns that the prison was struggling with extra work especially with staff shortages - noting at least 20 vacancies in the offender management unit unfilled at the time of inspection.

He said: “The offender management unit simply could not cope with demand and often felt as though it was under siege from prisoners who wanted help and advice about the completion of their sentences, but could not get a response from over-stretched staff.”

He said that although there were low drug testing rates, there was a ‘significant problem’ with psychoactive substances such as Black Mamba, which were not easily detectable, and the ‘diversion’ of medicines. Despite this he said the prison was ‘reasonably safe’ and found there was ‘very little self-harm’ among inmates.

He concluded that North Sea Camp was recovering from a difficult period, and despite staff shortages, had got its priorities right. He added progress needed to continue to hold men safely and reduce the risk of re-offending after release.

Chief executive officer Michael Spurr of the National Offender Management Service (NOMS) said temporary release was a vital tool in preparing long-serving prisoners for release.

He said he was pleased with the conclusion that after a thorough review the processes are now much more rigorously and safely managed.

Mr Spurr said: “Every prisoner is subject to a full and very detailed and rigorous multi-agency risk assessment, and North Sea Camp has been improving its internal procedures and recruiting staff to increase the amount of administration time available to complete the rigorous assessment processes.

“The chief inspector highlighted that the governor has properly prioritised safety, and the prison will continue to be given the support they need to maintain the progress which has been made.”