Gloucestershire

Violence up at Eastwood Park women's prison

Interior Eastwood Park prison
Image caption Eastwood Park closed prison for women can take up to 363 inmates

A report into conditions at a women's prison Gloucestershire has highlighted "unacceptably tight staffing levels" and an "increase in violence".

The Independent Monitoring Board has published its annual review into Eastwood Park Prison for 2013-2014.

The report also raised concerns over an increase in inmates being confined to cells, a lack of disabled accommodation and a need for refurbishment.

It also noted 40 single cells being used for double occupancy.

A spokesperson for the prison's service said a number of new prison officers have now started work at Eastwood Park.

"The safety of prisoners and staff is our top priority.

"We work hard to tackle violence and will always press for prosecution of those responsible."

'Unnecessary difficulties'

The report notes some cells are not suitable for the confinement of prisoners because of a lack of ventilation.

Panels on some cell doors were deemed "not fit for purpose" as they prevented "clear observation or communication with prisoners" inside, it was claimed.

The board noted there have been three deaths in custody compared with none in 2012/2013 and said it was concerned it had not been told when the inquests are due to be held.

The report calls for improved scheduling of prisoner arrivals saying as there is no cut-off time for prisoners arriving at Eastwood Park this causes "unnecessary difficulties in the induction and settling in of new prisoners".

It also wants to see more educational and rehabilitation courses offered to reflect increasing prisoner numbers and the changing length of stay and more counselling for inmates.

The Independent Monitoring Board is appointed by the Secretary of State from members of the community in which the prison is situated.

In a statement The Ministry of Justice commented it is "pleased this report praises HMP Eastwood Park for its management of female offenders, as well as its work to ensure prisoners get the skills and experience to help apply for jobs upon release."

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