Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Calls to Stop Cell Sharing at Prison

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Calls to Stop Cell Sharing at Prison

Article excerpt

Byline: Sophie Doughty Crime Reporter @Sophie_Doughty

MINISTERS are being urged to end the old-fashioned 'two in a cell' policy which means most inmates at a North East prison are forced to share a room.

HMP Durham's Independent Monitoring Board (IMP) recently completed its annual report into how the prison is run.

And in it the board calls on the Government to tackle the overcrowding problem in British jails, saying while sharing cells is legal, it is no longer appropriate in the 21st century.

The report says: "The board would like the minister to look nationally at the issue of "overcrowding" in prisons. At HMP Durham, the majority of the cells are double occupancy and whilst the board accepts that the operational capacity is legal, the board feels that in the 21st century, more effort should be made to provide single occupancy cells throughout the prison estate, improving the facilities offered and the decency afforded to the prisoners."

The IMB is a committee of local volunteers who act as an independent watchdog at the prison.

Its report covers the year from November 1, 2016 to October 31, 2017, a period during which HMP Durham made the transition from a jail that housed long-term inmates to a 'reception' prison, which takes in prisoners on remand awaiting court appearances.

HMP Durham IMB chair John Davidson told The Journal the change did present challenges to the prison and its staff as there would be a higher turnover of prisoners with many only being at the prison for short periods of time.

However, the board found HMP Durham had coped well.

Mr Davidson said: "Within the annual reporting period, it is fair to say that the board's overall view is that we are satisfied the fundamental areas of the prison are well managed and prisoners are treated fairly and humanely."

As part of the transformation into a remand prison, HMP Durham's governor obtained extra funding to make some vital improvements.

These included the replacement of old, unrepairable washing machines, the refurbishment of showers and extra staffing. …

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