Watchdog concerns over 'doubling up' of prisoners at HMP Bure

PUBLISHED: 19:31 12 December 2017 | UPDATED: 19:47 12 December 2017

HMP Bure. Pic: Colin Finch.

HMP Bure. Pic: Colin Finch.

Concerns have been raised by independent inspectors that prisoners at a Norfolk prison are having to share cells designed for one person.

The Independent Monitoring Board for HMP Bure has expressed its reservations in the annual report of the prison, which was built on the former RAF Coltishall site and houses more than 600 prisoners.

The board said that prisoners received fair treatment overall. They said they were able to practise their religion fully and safely, with good opportunities for elected prisoner representatives to meet with management to find ways to resolve problems and identify improvements.

But they said: “We have some reservations about recent increases in the number of prisoners expected to ‘double up’ in cells.

“Whilst we have been told they are within acceptable ‘volumetric compliance’, in practical terms prisoners have inadequate space with the inability to access a table and chair for each individual and the concern that the lack of space would affect the access to give emergency treatment.

“This brings into question the concept of ‘fair and decent’.”

The board was concerned that ‘doubling up’ has become standard practice at the prison, rather than a temporary measure. One of their recommendations to the prisons minister is that the government ensures establishments such as HMP Bure operate at their ‘certified normal accommodation’ levels to prevent that being necessary.

The board was pleased to note that the level of violence in HMP Bure is lower than similar establishments and that prisoners, in the main, feel safe.

And they praised the Ormiston Families manager and staff who have maintained a good service, caring for visitors and children.

But they were concerned at the loss of prisoners’ property during transfers and about long queues outside to collect medication from the prison’s pharmacy.

The evidence for the board’s annual report comes from observations made on visits, scrutiny of records and of data, informal contact with prisoners and staff, surveys and prisoner applications.

The prison, which became operational in 2009, specialises in housing adult male sex offenders.

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