Norfolk

Blundeston inmates opt for 'safe' segregation

Four out of 10 men held in a Suffolk prison segregation unit asked to be there for their own protection, an inspectors' report claims.

Many saw this as an easy way out of HMP Blundeston near Lowestoft to a jail nearer home, the report adds.

Nick Hardwick, the chief inspector of prisons, said nine out of 10 segregated prisoners actually achieved a transfer.

The National Offender Management Service said the regime had been changed to focus on rehabilitation.

Inspectors said the prison had drifted backwards in safety, respect and resettlement.

"Blundeston was a prison badly in need of a new sense of direction. Significant numbers of prisoners reported feeling unsafe and too many sought sanctuary in the segregation unit.

"Some new wings were very good but the sanitation arrangements in some older ones were unfit for the 21st Century."

'Easy way out of prison'

The inspection carried out earlier this year found "nothing was done to challenge or address the underlying issues or behaviour that had led to a prisoner being segregated".

"In cases where prisoners were segregated for their own safety, it was not clear what investigations had been carried out to ascertain the reason for the request.

"It appeared that many prisoners considered location on the unit as an easy way out of the prison."

Prisoners often cite being in a segregation unit as evidence they are under threat - and use this to strengthen their case for being moved to another jail.

A total of 214 prisoners were held in the unit in 2010, 85 of whom had been located there for their own protection.

Six prisoners were held in the segregation unit, which was dark with little natural light and "heavily soiled" toilets, for longer than 30 days.

Reduction in violence

Michael Cadman, from the Independent Monitoring Board, said he and his colleagues regularly visited the prison and the report no longer gave a true picture.

"Many of the segregated prisoners had issues with other inmates over such things as debt, alcohol or drugs.

"The prison regime has changed since the inspection was made and a new governor arrived at the end of January.

"A large number of prisoners came from the London area in the past and they wanted a transfer to a jail nearer home. Now more of the prisoners are from East Anglia," he said.

Michael Spurr, chief executive of the National Offender Management Service said: "This report identifies a number of weaknesses at Blundeston.

"Since the inspection, the governor and his staff have worked hard to address the issues and action is in place to meet the recommendations.

"These include a more strategic approach to rehabilitation, the introduction of staff profiles that deliver a constructive and predictable regime for offenders and a reduction in violence."

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