Wales

Cardiff prison: Ex-offender housing policy review call

Cardiff Prison viewed over a wall Image copyright Richard Sutcliffe/Geograph
Image caption In one case a prisoner was released with 44p and nowhere to sleep that night

A number of inmates at Cardiff prison plan to reoffend on release to get a meal and a bed, according to the jail's monitoring board.

It has called on the Welsh Government to review housing policy for ex-offenders urgently, as some prisoners were released without accommodation.

The report also highlighted "a major increase in self-harm and violence".

The Welsh Government said it was working with prisons to improve the resettlement of people being released.

Independent monitoring boards (IMB) are made up of volunteers from the general public, who monitor the day-to-day life in their local prison with the aim of ensuring good standards.

The Cardiff IMB spoke to a sample of 23 men who were being released.

Ten of the sample did not have a definite place to stay that night. Some of the prisoners said they feared staying at one local hostel because of violence, theft and pressure to take drugs.

The board cited one extreme example where a man was released with 44p in his pocket and nowhere to sleep that night.

Self-harm

Reasons given for self-harm included bullying, frustration and a desire for vapes or e-cigarettes.

A prison smoking ban was introduced in 2016. The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) said prisoners were allowed to vape, and could purchase them from the prison shop, but governors had the power to restrict their use depending on the circumstances.

Last May, Cardiff prison introduced a policy of not conceding to demands for vapes by those threatening to self harm. Levels of self-harm had already started to fall significantly by the end of the reporting period.

In July a scheme was being rolled out where prisoners had weekly sessions with a key worker, which IMB members said had been well received, with hopes it would reduce self-harm and violence.

But the report said serious concerns remained regarding mental health care.

Despite heavy demand for care, the teams were understaffed, and waiting times were such that many men were released from prison without being seen.

The report, which covered September 2017 to August 2018, also found:

  • Prisoners referred to moderate secure units frequently had considerable waiting times because of the scarcity of places or disagreement about funding.
  • Waiting times for routine GP appointments were up to 22 days; opticians were up to 61 days; and dentists up to 66 days.
  • Overall levels of staffing have been increased at the prison, which the report noted had meant a marked positive effect, and the good work of the prison governor was also noted.
  • The physical state of the building continued to cause major issues. There was a lack of heating during the winter in some parts of the Victorian building, and some showers were without hot water, although the MoJ said those problems have now been resolved.

Prisons are the responsibility of the MoJ. A prison service spokesman said: "This inspection rightly acknowledges the positive steps taken by the prison, such as giving each prisoner a dedicated key worker to monitor them and help reduce violence and self-harm.

"We continue to work with the Welsh Government to improve mental health and ensure they have settled accommodation when they leave the prison."

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