Norwich Prison budget cuts 'hold back improvements'
Budget cuts have limited improvements to the quality of care at Norwich Prison, inspectors have said.
The Independent Monitoring Board at HMP Norwich was concerned for the safety of staff and prisoners after budget cuts of 24% over the past three years.
But the board has recognised the effort shown by staff trying to do a good job and achieve the best for prisoners within confines and restrictions.
The Ministry of Justice said the prison was safe and was recruiting staff.
Inspectors said staffing numbers were cut to a level they considered unsafe.
Rise in assaults
A Ministry of Justice (MoJ) spokesman said: "This report recognises HMP Norwich as an improving prison with hard working staff, strong positive management and purposeful activity provided for prisoners.
"Prisons have safe and decent staffing levels, and we responded to recent pressures by recruiting over 1,700 additional prison officers (nationally)."
The inspectors questioned an assertion by the MoJ that staffing levels were determined "to ensure prisons are as safe as possible".
Their report said serious assaults were up by 30% and "use of force" incidents up 42% on the previous year.
The report also said there had been a marked increase in the identification of prisoners with serious mental health illnesses.
The MoJ said: "Independent courts decide whether offenders are placed in secure hospitals or given custodial sentences, based on the psychiatric evidence in front of them.
"If diagnosed when in custody, prisoners can be transferred to secure hospitals under the Mental Health Act 1983."
To retain staff a one-off retention bonus has been given to "our most experienced officers, as well as a special payment for those providing additional cover over the summer".
Initial staff training had increased from eight to 12 weeks.