Ford Prison staff reductions are a worry

STAFFING cutbacks could interfere with the running of Ford Prison, an annual report has warned.

The Independent Monitoring Board has said the lack of employees was becoming a concern.

Chairman Andrew Isaac stated: “The board fully recognises the need for cost cutting and accepts that this will have an effect on manpower.

“However, the board is very concerned that the level of reduction in staff is likely to have a serious effect on the efficient running of the prison.

“The constant pressure under which staff are now expected to work leads to increased levels of sickness which, in turn, places even more pressure on those who report for duty.

“Frequently, staff have to be taken off normal duty to cover for those who are not available.

“While the board does not consider the stability of the prison to be compromised, it remains concerned at staffing levels at night and also in reception where the board believes more security checks should be carried out.”

He made his comments in the board’s latest report published on Monday. It covers the year until last October.

The board’s members have to be satisfied prisoners are treated fairly, inform the government of any concerns and issue an annual report.

Ford has 521 prisoners. It is an open prison and those transferred there should present a low risk of absconding and to the public.

Accommodation in the old wartime Fleet Air Arim billets was crowded and below the expected standard, said Mr Isaac.

This had been complained about many times.

Drugs also remained a problem as they were at many prisons. Users and dealers were returned to closed conditions but the board regretted sniffer dogs were no longer kept at Ford.

There had been some well-publicised reports of incidents which took place when offenders were out of prison.

But a new offender assessment system had been put in place in the past year to enable them to be more easily returned to closed conditions.

Mr Isaac said all offenders in Ford were engaged in a purposeful activity. This included work placements and paid jobs to help to create a successful record of resettlement of offenders.