Prisoners need more 'purposeful activity'

Ben KendallNorwich prison has made significant improvements, but urgent action is needed to provide suitable activity for inmates, the chief inspector of prisons said today.Ben Kendall

Norwich prison has made significant improvements, but urgent action is needed to provide suitable activity for inmates, the chief inspector of prisons said today.

The inspector's annual report highlights concerns that there is not enough to do inside the city's Knox Road jail, meaning there were not enough opportunities to gain education and vocational skills which might help prevent re-offending.

But the report also points to the prison's progress, saying that until now it has had to deal with the problems of split site accommodation that has 'in some cases been unfit for use'. The worst accommodation had been replaced with the construction of the new A-wing, and managers had tried to focus on the prison's local role and organise the accommodation more effectively.

Chief inspector Anne Owers said: 'Managers had developed a clear role and strategy for Norwich, as a predominantly local prison. For local men serving less than 12 months, the progression through the main prison to the local discharge unit was an effective way of meeting resettlement needs.

'However, provision was much less satisfactory for other prisoners: those discharged directly from the main prison, or vulnerable prisoners unable to be housed on the small dedicated unit.

'For all prisoners, though, the lack of sufficient purposeful activity, and the underuse of what was available, meant that few could acquire the educational and employment skills they would need for successful rehabilitation.

Most Read

'Norwich was an improved and safer prison than when we last inspected, but the gap in education and training urgently needs to be filled.'

Inspectors said they were pleased to find that more prisoners felt safe at Norwich than at most other local prisons; relationships between staff and prisoners were reasonably good and health services were improving.

The incorporation of young adults into the main population, together with an effective violence reduction strategy, appeared to be reducing the number of violent incidents.

The report adds that although suicide prevention procedures were sound, the large number of men subject to those procedures risked insufficient attention being given to those really at risk. It adds: 'The virtually unused day care centre was a lost opportunity to support them.'

Despite considerable attention to diversity, implementation was weak and black and minority ethnic prisoners continued to have poorer perceptions.

Michael Spurr, chief executive officer of the National Offender Management Service, said: 'I am pleased that the chief inspector praises the governor and staff at HMP Norwich for improvements in safety and focusing their efforts on making it an effective local prison. T

'There are areas where there remains work to do such as induction, primary mental health care and particularly purposeful activity and these will be addressed.'

Norwich prison is currently awaiting the appointment of a new governor after Paul Baker left the role to work in prisons abroad.

Do you think more needs to be done to support prisoners? Write to Evening News letters at Prospect House, Rouen Road, Norwich, NR1 1RE, or email