Prison Inspections

Continued severe COVID-19 regime restrictions risk psychological decline in prisoners

Prisons and immigration removal centres responded decisively to keep prisoners, children and detainees safe from COVID-19, according to Peter Clarke, HM Chief Inspector of Prisons, in a report on findings from visits to 35 establishments in the early stages of the pandemic.

However, Mr Clarke warned that continued severe regime restrictions in prisons – at times amounting effectively to solitary confinement – have created “a real risk of psychological decline among prisoners, which needs to be addressed urgently.”

Publishing a review of short scrutiny visits (SSVs) undertaken between April and July, Mr Clarke said: “The restrictions imposed in March 2020 undoubtedly helped to prevent the spread of the virus.

“While many of these limitations were extreme, there was a high level of acceptance and cooperation among prisoners, supported by generally good communication about the reasons for such actions by most prison managers. For some weeks, there was a sense of prisoners, children and staff ‘being in this together’.”