Rising levels of self harm and violence at Exeter Prison could be due to low staffing levels, a report has found.
The Independent Monitoring Board for the prison found that the number of staff within the prison - a level set by the Ministry of Justice - was too low to ensure optimum care of prisoners, especially the vulnerable.
The report, for 2015, found that although the prison is well run and generally safe, there were worrying rising levels of violence and self harm.
They added that smuggling and use of New Psychoactive Substances - ‘spice’ - is an increasing problem that "undoubtedly also increases violence".
In a list of "formidable problems" the IMP said it was concerned that many prisoners with serious mental health problems were left waiting for weeks, even months for a bed in a secure mental health unit.
Although much of this is down to a national shortage of places, within the prison mental health provision outside normal working hours was inadequate.
It added that the Victorian buildings on a "cramped inner city site" meant some areas were dark and made it difficult to provide appropriate modern facilities. It also, the report said, limited the work and education opportunities provided.
The prison is located in Victorian buildings on a cramped inner city site. Some areas are dark and it is difficult to provide appropriate modern facilities. Lack of space limits the work and education opportunities that can be provided.
THE MAIN CONCERNS:
- Staffing levels - set by the Ministry of Justice - are too low to ensure optimum care of prisoners.
- It can be difficult to provide appropriate care on reception - especially to those arriving late.
- Mental health provision outside normal working hours is inadequate.
- Lack of space in the prison limits work and education opportunities.
- Some areas of the prison are dark and unable to provide modern facilities.
- Courses offered at HMP Exeter link with those in other Devon prisons.
- Prisoners with additional care needs are supported fully.
- Social car and segregation units offer "particularly good and respectful" care to prisoners with difficulties.
- The palliative care suite provides excellent care to terminally ill prisoners.
The report also concluded the the prison was generally well run, and staff made an effort to treat prisoners with dignity and respect.
It praised the "excellent and imaginative work opportunities" by the education department which meant courses linked with other Devon prisons - where many inmates moved to.