By Kevin Smith
Community inspectors have attacked the government for failing to improve Ford Prison.
The prison’s Independent Monitoring Board said the lack of action to upgrade the buildings at the category D open prison, pictured right, was to be deplored.
The board’s latest annual report, published on Monday, said it was the 11th consecutive year the need for work had been highlighted.
“Accommodation at HMP Ford is in an increasingly poor state despite local projects to improve living conditions,” the report states.
“A radical solution of replacement accommodation has again failed to be delivered by the Ministry of Justice.
“Prisoners still do not have hygienic way to clean their dishes on A wing and instead have to use bathroom hand basins.
“Problems regarding the kitchen equipment were constant throughout this reporting period. The freezers in the kitchen are now on individual electrical circuits, which is a great improvement.
“This reporting period has seen no improvement in the efficiency of the prisoners’ laundrette, with machines regularly breaking down and their repair proving short term.
“HMP Ford has made huge progress this year in getting more prisoners out every day for paid work and it is simply unacceptable that, when they go out, they have no reliable source of clean clothes.”
The independent monitoring board has 14 members. They visited the prison 599 times in the year to October 31, which is covered in the latest report.
The board’s chairman, Joanna, Lady Woodcock, said: “Over the past 12 months, the number of prisoners from HMP Ford who go out to do purposeful paid work, attend academic and vocational education courses, have initial accompanied day release and subsequent home leave, has increased to 200 per day.
“Much of this success is due to the positive involvement by local employers who see the value to their businesses of employing these men, many of whom gain permanent employment with them on release.”
Part of this work has seen the Serving Thyme coffee shop, gift shop and garden centre within the prison opened to the public in recent months.
The temporary licences under which the prisoners leave the prison are designed to prepare them to be better placed to resettle into the community and to reduce re-offending. They number 4,000 a month compared to 2,600 a year ago.
The board’s members say prisoners in HMP Ford are treated fairly and humanely by its staff.
A total of 1,191 prisoners spent time at the prison – with its 544 capacity – during the year of the report. The prison houses male prisoners. Many are lifers but none is serving sentences for sex offences.
Prisoners returned to closed conditions numbered 170 in the year. This compared to 199 in the previous year.
“The infiltration of contraband, mostly drugs, mobile phones and SIM cards, continues to be a major challenge for the prison management,” the report adds.
“It is regrettable that the governor’s proposal to improve the security of the reception area has been rejected by HM Prisons and Probation Service.”