Charity slams 'desperate' punishments at Lewes Prison

Lewes Prison
Lewes Prison

More than 1,915 days of additional imprisonment were added to inmates' sentences at Lewes Prison last year, a report by a leading Prisons Charity has revealed today (Thursday).

The figures, which have been published as part of research into the prison adjudications system by the Howard League for Penal Reform, show the number of additional days given as punishment to prisoners in HMP Lewes rose by more than 12 per cent between 2014 and 2015 - from 1,698 in 2014 to 1,915 in 2015.

The Howard League says its research shows a nationwide increase in the number of days added to prisoners' sentences, which it claims is due growing pressure from overcrowding and staff shortages. The charity has criticised the increase in these punishments, saying they are 'a desperate and counter-productive attempt to keep control'.

Frances Crook, chief executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform, said: “The system of adjudications has become a monster. Originally intended as a way to punish incidents of unacceptable conduct, it is now routinely used as a behaviour management technique by prisons that are out of control.

“Instead of solving the problems, these punishments feed a vicious cycle, piling more pressure on the prison population and worsening overcrowding, which in turn creates conditions for drug abuse and violence. At the same time, rules to incentivise prisoners’ behaviour have been made more punitive, which is also contributing to the poisonous atmosphere behind bars.

“The government has acknowledged that there are problems in the system, but warm words are not enough. The imposition of additional days should be seen as a sign of a poorly performing prison and included in new measures being proposed to monitor safety and order. The rules around incentives and earned privileges must also be revised, as ministers have now promised."

On Tuesday (November 15), staff at HMP Lewes joined a national protest against what the Prison Officers' Association said was a 'surge in violence' and 'chronic staff shortages' in prisons.

The protest came just three weeks after prison officers were forced to retreat from a wing of Lewes prison after around 30 inmates "went on the rampage" for six hours. Three men were arrested for prison mutiny following the incident.

Speaking to the BBC at the time, POA Chairman Mike Rolfe criticised 'short staffing and poor management' at HMP Lewes. He said: “There were only four staff on that wing and all four retreated to safety after threats of violence and the prisoners went on the rampage.”

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