Independent checks praise HMP Durham for ‘clear’ future vision

John Davidson, chairman of the Independent Monitoring Board which checks on HMP Durham.
John Davidson, chairman of the Independent Monitoring Board which checks on HMP Durham.

A jail which has become a remand centre for almost 1,000 prisoners is being ‘well run and well managed‘, according to an independent monitoring team.

HMP Durham, which takes male offenders from across Wearside and the wider North East, has gone from housing category B and some remand prisoners to a reception centre, which means it largely deals with those coming into the system before being moved to a long-term prison.

We think it has learned consistently from the past and I know from comments from other board members and from comments from prison groups that it is clear on where it is going in future.

John Davidson

As a result, it has seen changes in its education departments, the allocation of its wings, its induction work, video court facilities and its visitor centre.

It was given extra funding to tackle issues identified last year by its Independent Monitoring Board (IMB), which is part of a national network.

That helped refurbish showers, bring in around 40 new members of staff with 30 more due, and replace its laundry facilities.

It has praised its new digital kit, which allows those with credit access to in-cell phones, while tablet computers encourage prisoners to improve IT skills.

A new video link suite has also made time and cost savings on transporting prisoners to court hearings, with a mental health unit to be a prototype for others across the country if its judged to be a success.

However, the board has pushed the Government for action over overcrowding concerns, calling for single occupancy, rather than double cells, with the issue of property lost between jails highlighted.

A delay in security clearance for staff also causes a shortage of health workers, with the number of nurses also an issue.

John Davidson is chairman of the HMP Durham IMB board, which has 14 members.

He said: “It is a well run, well managed prison where prisoners are treated well and humanly.

“We think it has learned consistently from the past and I know from comments from other board members and from comments from prison groups that it is clear on where it is going in future.

“It doesn’t stand still Durham, so if something happens today, we know something will be done about it and it is always looking to improve.

“I would also say justice is being served by those who have committed a crime and deserves custody as a punishment.

“I think it does a good job in preparing them for the future roles and helps them get qualifications whether that’s in Holme House or elsewhere and it can help them gain skills, and for example, it does have job applications on a board.

“But is justice being served also comes down to the person and if they don’t behave and fit the system, they will not be given their associations as a result.

“There will be no hesitation in that, they will not get their benefits, they won’t get television, they can’t chose what they have from the canteen, they will be incarcerated and their privileges will be withdrawn.”

More information about the IMB can be found via https://www.imb.org.uk/