Covid saw HMP Bure prisoners locked in cells for 23 hours a day

HMP Bure

HMP Bure on the former RAF Coltishall site houses more than 600 prisoners - Credit: Archant

Inmates at a Norfolk prison were judged to have received fair treatment despite having been locked up for more than 23 hours a day. 

The Independent Monitoring Board for HMP Bure said Covid measures meant it was required that prisoners spent almost all of their days in their cell.

Its 2021 annual report for the prison, built on the former RAF Coltishall site and housing more than 600 prisoners, said: “It is probably difficult to conclude anything other than that locking up prisoners for 23 hours out of 24 is inhumane.”

HMP Bure

HMP Bure is a category C prison for men convicted of sexual offences - Credit: Archant

But it added in the context of the pandemic significant steps had been taken to lessen its effect.

Such measures were commonplace at prisons across the country during the pandemic.

The report said 19 extra temporary self-contained single accommodation units had helped ease accommodation pressures due to Covid isolation requirements.

And the mental health team and ‘listeners’ service made up of selected inmates had “worked diligently to support those seriously affected by long hours of lockdown”.

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But the board also questioned why prisoners did not have access to in-cell phones for outside contact despite funding for it.

“Telephony facilities for prisoners are principally landing-based communal telephones, which lack privacy and are limited to five minutes’ use only,” they added.

The independent inspectors praised the prison’s education and vocational training programmes as “well-managed” but raised concerns that not enough was being done to help those serving indeterminate sentences.

Prisons minister Victoria Atkins

The Independent Monitoring Board for HMP Bure has written to prisons minister Victoria Atkins over its concerns - Credit: UK Parliament

In one of their recommendations to prisons minister Victoria Atkins they asked why 58 prisoners were serving such sentences “without provision for any offending behaviour programmes or accredited interventions to allow progression towards release”.

They added: “HMP Bure has one individual who has served five times more than his original tariff. In the board’s view this is neither fair or humane.”

The board’s report said prisoners being confined to cells longer meant there had been reduction in violence and officers having to use force. 

There was one self-inflicted death, seven were from natural causes, one of which was Covid related. But there were 226 individual cases of self-harm.

HMP Bure is a category C prison for men convicted of sexual offences. Almost half of prisoners are aged over 50, one in 10 is aged over 70 and the oldest is 93. 

The prison also has provision for transgender inmates of whom there was one as of July 2021.