What is Erlestoke Prison like?
What is HMP Erlestoke Prison Like? An In-Depth Look
HMP Erlestoke is a Category C training and resettlement prison located near Devizes in Wiltshire. This article aims to shed light on the conditions, safety, and programs at Erlestoke prison, especially following the scrutiny visit by HM Inspectorate of Prisons (HMI Prisons) in August 2020.
COVID-19 and Its Aftermath
The prison managed to safeguard inmates from COVID-19 during the early stages of the pandemic by implementing a highly restricted regime. Despite this, the scrutiny visit revealed that the facility had become “less safe, less decent, and less purposeful” as a result of the pandemic response. Peter Clarke, HM Chief Inspector of Prisons, noted that inmates were increasingly frustrated by the limited amount of time spent out of their cells, usually 45-minute sessions twice a day.
Concerns Raised by HMI Prisons
Safety and Discipline
Contrary to the assumption that restricted regimes would result in reduced violence, the level of assaults remained largely unchanged. Instances of staff use of force more than doubled, and there was a noticeable increase in serious indiscipline incidents. Additionally, a significant uptick in self-harm was observed, raising concerns about the mental well-being of inmates.
Poor Living Conditions
Inspectors encountered a deteriorating state of residential units, including broken windows, non-functional showers, and blocked toilets. The segregation unit had even worse conditions, with prisoners lacking essential amenities like running water and toilets for extended periods.
What is Erlestoke Prison like?
Ineffective Incentives and Substance Abuse
Although prisoners generally felt that the staff treated them respectfully, the existing incentives scheme was considered ineffective. Moreover, despite active efforts to intercept drugs, a considerable number of prisoners stated that obtaining drugs was easy within the facility.
Educational and Health Services
While face-to-face education had been halted, distance learning packages were provided. However, health services were deemed mostly satisfactory.
Family Contact and Offender Management
The support mechanisms for family contact were viewed as inadequate. The offender management unit, however, continued face-to-face contact in complex cases but offered limited opportunities for most prisoners to make any real progress.
Conclusion and Future Outlook
Peter Clarke summed up the scrutiny visit as “very troubling,” but he also pointed out that some issues could be addressed with effective leadership and systemic changes. The facility has a capacity for holding just over 440 adult men, most of whom are serving lengthy sentences. Although the prison has had its share of challenges, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, the facility also has several advantages that could be capitalized on for improvement.
HMP Erlestoke faces a crucial juncture where it can revise its approach and culture. With focused leadership and an engaged staff, there is potential for the prison to quickly enhance its performance and living conditions.
Whether you are a family member of an inmate, a legal professional, or a concerned citizen, knowing the current state of Erlestoke prison is vital for a better understanding of the challenges and opportunities it faces.