Prisons 'cherry-picking' inmates to avoid those who are sick leads to delays for HMP Durham

Issues over other jails choosing not to take unwell prisoners and hold-ups in deporting immigration detainees have been highlighted as reasons why HMP Durham is being held back.

The latest check by the Independent Monitoring Board (IMB) of the city centre remand centre has said it is facing problems on moving on category B prisoners to other locations to serve out their term due to others “cherry-picking” by not taking prisoners with medical conditions which require external hospital appointments.

Overcrowding at the prison was noted as an issue last year – the prison’s operational capacity is 980 inmates, over its certified normal accommodation of 596 – and continues to be a “major problem.”

The report adds an inadequate number of high-security placements and waiting lists for NHS mental health unit beds have also added to the difficulties.

HMP Durham is a category B remand prison.

An increase in self-harm incidents, concern foreign national prisoners are left on their own with little contact with the Home Office and “unacceptable level of delays” in prisoners getting their prescription medicines are also raised with the prison and the Government.

However, the team of volunteers has noted the prison has worked hard over the year to improve areas, with the attendance of activities “excellent,” putting it ahead of training establishments, which it says is remarkable, given remand prisoners cannot be forced to attend.

They have also said the governance of use of force incidents is better, the launch of dedicated search teams has helped improve mandatory drug testing and there are “exemplary management plans” for and levels of care shown to transgender prisoners.

The new key worker scheme is also underway, which aims to encourage prisoners to learn and look at employment opportunities.

John Davidson, chairman of the Independent Monitoring Board of HMP Durham from 2018/19, outside the city centre jail.

John Davidson, IMB chairman during 2018/19, said: “Within the annual reporting period the prison has responded well to the many challenges which it faced last year.

“Last year the main issue affecting the prison was safety. The prison has tackled this issue well with decreases in all areas except self-harm.

“Whilst the board accepts the prison are taking various steps to address this issue, the board is still concerned that there has been an increase in the number of such incidents.”