Two thirds of prisoners feel unsafe and Muslim inmates accuse staff of treating them inequitably, Chief Prisons Inspector’s report says

Whitemoor Prison, March, has 431 inmates, some of which are described as "very dangerous."

Whitemoor Prison, March, has 431 inmates, some of which are described as "very dangerous." - Credit: Archant

Two thirds of prisoners at Whitemoor prison in March have admitted to feeling unsafe, according to the HM Inspectorate of Prisons.

The Category A prison, which houses some of the most dangerous inmates in the country, was subject to an unannounced visit by the inspectorate in March this year.

Chief Inspector Peter Clarke found that in a survey completed by 184 of the prison’s 431 inmates, two thirds (98) said they had felt unsafe at some point during their detainment, with 34 per cent saying they felt unsafe at the time.

Mr Clarke also said that Whitemoor’s segregation unit, which contains 30 cells for prisoners deemed to be vulnerable or a risk for other prisoners, was “impoverished,” “consistently full,” and “governance was unacceptably poor”.

Whitemoor was also criticised for its failure to provide prisoners with everyday essential items, with Mr Clarke labelling prisoners’ access to changes of clothing, bedding and showers “inadequate.”

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The report also said that the prison’s Muslim population – 40 per cent of inmates – said they remain “negative about some aspects of life,” despite a development in staff’s understanding of their needs.

It said that many Muslim prisoners complained about staff and managers treating them inequitably and that “not enough was being done” to address the issue.

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Support for foreign national prisoners, which make up one fifth of the prison’s total inmates, was “too limited,” Mr Clarke added, and not enough was done to support family contact or access independent immigration support.

The prison was praised, however, for its “remarkably low” level of violence – 11 incidents were reported in the six months leading up to the inspection – and its “excellent” specialist programmes.

Mr Clarke said: “Overall, and given the complexity of the issues being dealt with at Whitemoor, we were heartened by what we found.

“For the vast majority, it was a generally safe prison, conditions were reasonable and relationships with staff had improved. The prison’s approach to diversity was developing and every prisoner could be involved in activities that would be of benefit to them.

“Resettlement work was appropriately focused and, despite there being many frustrations about progression, it was reasonably well supported.

“Our overriding concern was about the small but significant number of men in the segregation unit for long periods, and we considered that this needed urgent attention. Nevertheless, we commend the new governor, his senior team and staff for their work.”

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