Mental-health problems affect half of prison, says new report

La Moye Prison Picture: ROB CURRIE. (37875177)

AT least half of the prisoners at La Moye are affected by mental-health issues, according to a new report.

But a strategy of “over-recruiting” for staff last year enabled inmates to spend more time outside of their cells each day.

The data was revealed in the 2023 annual report compiled by the Jersey Independent Prison Monitoring Board and presented to Home Affairs Minister Mary Le Hegarat this week.

It described the overall security situation within the prison as “strong”, with few serious or dangerous incidents.

However, one area of concern was mental health, which the board explained has been “constantly at the fore”.

“Mental-health issues affect at least half of all prisoners. A review of the healthcare function commenced in January 2023, and remained ongoing at the end of the year. We will continue to follow its progress in 2024,” the report says.

It also highlighted the fact that the prison was fully staffed in April last year but had vacancies by July, which coincided with concerns about the impact parental leave could have in the summer.

The concerns stemmed from new parental-leave requirements that came into effect at the end of 2022, giving fathers additional leave as well as mothers.

However, throughout 2023, management had adopted a policy of “over-recruiting” to combat such pressures – which saw ten new officers pass out earlier in the year and a further 15 enter service in November.

“The coming on stream of new officers enabled others to be promoted and several management positions were reorganised as a result,” the report says.

The bolstered staff complement enabled prisoners to have more time outside of their cells, which had previously been an area of focus for the board.

“Time out of cell is a key factor for prisoner welfare and in recent years this has been impacted negatively by Covid from 2020, and more recently by the States parental-leave policy and the consequential staff shortages,” says the report.

“Due to ‘over-recruiting’ during 2023, the prison has become better resourced and so there has been an increase in the number of hours prisoners spend out of cell.”

In 2022, the average time spent by a prisoner outside of their cell each day was five hours and 30 minutes, which grew to six hours and 58 minutes last year.

“This includes all time spent outside of cells, not solely for purposeful activities,” the report continues.

“It is an objective of prison management to work towards increasing the time out of cell up to ten hours.”

The report also states that there are “a wide range of areas needing improvement” in relation to education, but that La Moye prison is “generally well managed”.

“Both uniformed and civilian staff are to be admired for their continuous efforts in sometimes trying circumstances.

“In addition to the pressures of any workplace, and staff shortages, many of the people they are dealing with are experiencing mental-health issues ranging from anxiety about legal cases, families and money to serious conditions requiring specialised treatment, while also adjusting to their loss of liberty.”

The prison has an operational capacity for 200 prisoners, with the actual population peaking in December at 159.

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