Use of force by staff at prison doubles

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Image caption Lowdham Grange is a category B prison which holds up to 920 men

The use of force by staff at a jail has doubled since 2015, a report has said.

It also found paperwork justifying the use of force at HMP Lowdham Grange, in Nottinghamshire, was “poor” or missing.

However, prison inspectors praised a photo booth for inmates to take pictures with family during visits at the privately run jail.

HM Prison and Probation Service said Lowdham Grange held a “challenging prisoner population” and operator Serco was committed to improving.

In August, the BBC reported allegations of prison officers attacking inmates after concerned family members came forward.

The HM Inspectorate of Prisons visit in August found there had been 314 incidents involving the use of force by staff in the previous six months, almost double the 166 detailed in a 2015 report.

Inspectors also said supervisor reports, officer statements and reports on prisoners’ injuries and health care, in relation to justifying the use of force, were missing in some cases.

In others there was insufficient detail about the incident and the film record did not match the account in the paperwork.

Self-harm increase

“During some planned incidents, prisoners were not given an opportunity to comply before staff entered cells with personal protective equipment and shields,” said inspectors.

“Not all planned uses of force were video recorded and body-worn cameras were not routinely used during spontaneous incidents.”

Inspectors also found the number of violent attacks by inmates was high for a category B training jail, with 64 assaults on staff and 83 on prisoners in the previous six months – with 30 involving weapons.

The report said: “Levels of violence were high, with some serious incidents resulting in hospitalisation.

“Although good initiatives were in place, supported by a comprehensive strategy, the root causes of the problem were not identified or addressed adequately.”

Most violence related to the trade of illicit drugs, inspectors said.

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Image caption The main recommendations made by the report were to reduce the number of violent incidents, the use of force and level of self-harm

The report also found the number of reports of self-harm in the prison had increased significantly and, since 2015, two prisoners had taken their own lives.

Lowdham Grange has introduced a “violence hotline” in an effort to improve safety, which was described as “good practice”, inspectors concluded.

However, Chief Inspector of Prisons Peter Clarke said it was too early to say if the approach was working and “levels of violence remained high”.

The main recommendations made by inspectors were to reduce the number of violent incidents, the use of force and level of self-harm.

‘Doing just enough’

It also said prisoners should be able to see health professionals in a timely manner, quality improvement measures should be implemented and managers should ensure all departments worked together to reduce risk.

Mr Clarke said: “Our findings at Lowdham Grange were adequate if inconsistent.

“There had been some progress but there was very much the sense that the prison was doing just enough.”

Mark Hanson, Serco contract director at Lowdham Grange, said he was “pleased that this report highlights a number of areas of progress, good practice and innovation”.

He continued: “However, we know we have much more to do to address all the recommendations in the report and embed the improvements that we been making in recent months and we are working on these as a matter of urgency.”

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