Safety concerns at Lewes prison: rise in self-harm and prisoner-on-prisoner violence, say independent monitors

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There are concerns about safety and the length of time prisoners spend in their cells in the recent annual report into HMP Lewes.

The 2023/24 report of the Independent Monitoring Board (IMB) for the Lewes prison was published on Wednesday, July 10.

The IMB report said incidents of prisoner self-harm rose by 27 per cent over the reporting year with 620 incidents compared to 488 previously.

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It found prisoner-on-prisoner violence rose by 67 per cent, with 209 instances this reporting year, compared to 125 previously.

The 2023/24 report of the Independent Monitoring Board (IMB) at HMP Lewes was published on Wednesday, July 10The 2023/24 report of the Independent Monitoring Board (IMB) at HMP Lewes was published on Wednesday, July 10
The 2023/24 report of the Independent Monitoring Board (IMB) at HMP Lewes was published on Wednesday, July 10

Nick Fairclough IMB Lewes vice-chair said: “The increase in violence is a significant concern, as is the fact that many of the men can be shut in their cells for up to 21 hours a day. The Board does, however, recognise that positive steps are being taken to provide the men with more opportunities for work, education and other purposeful activity.”

The report said there had been a 30 per cent reduction in prisoner assaults against staff.

The Board said prison staff work hard to give prisoners more time for activities, but prisoners still spend too long locked in their cells. They said this is ‘around 21 hours a day for those not doing purposeful activities’.

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The report at www.imb.org.uk said there have been long wait times for healthcare appointments with the Board ‘especially concerned’ about psychiatry provision in the prison.

A Board spokesperson said: “In September 2023 waiting times for mental health assessments were said to be up to 20 weeks, though the situation had eased by the end of the reporting year.”

But the Board said the introduction of the Lewes assurance multi-skills team, where prisoners can refurbish areas of the prison, has improved the residential wings. It also said prisoner attendance rates at work and education had improved from 30 per cent at the start of 2023 to 93 per cent in December.

A Prison Service spokesperson said: “As the report recognises, the new governor is already delivering significant improvements at HMP Lewes but we know there is much more to be done. We have recruited new staff specifically to combat drugs entering the prison, ramped up suspicious drug testing and are exploring options for increasing time out of cells so more offenders can get the education and training they need to turn their back on crime.”