Women removed from Durham prison after critical report

    Durham prison is to change purposes after the chief inspector of
    prisons Anne Owers described it as “inappropriate” for
    holding women serving long-sentences writes Clare
    Jerrom.

    The inspection report, which was carried out at the end of an
    18-month period in which there had been five self-inflicted deaths,
    found there were no policies for women in relation to suicide
    management, drugs and resettlement.

    Owers highlighted that more than half of the women in Durham had
    at some point been on suicide watch and some of the most vulnerable
    women were held behind double doors, insulated from the rest of the
    wing.

    While there were some improvements that managers could make to
    create a better environment, Owers said: “However, we do not
    believe that the environment, or the regime that can be made
    available within it, are appropriate to hold long sentenced women
    who need both support and sufficient purposeful
    activity.”

    This week, the Prison Service announced that the prison would be
    re-roled to become a community prison. The establishment of two
    purpose-built units for women and additional spare capacity
    elsewhere meant there was no longer a need to hold women and
    category A male prisoners at Durham.

    Deputy director general Peter Atherton said the decision meant
    staff could specialise in resettling short-term prisoners in the
    north-east and play an important role in helping to establish the
    National Offender Management Service.

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