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Friday, 10 November, 2000, 20:06 GMT
Remand inmates in 'shameful conditions'
HMP Bristol
Bristol's remand regime was criticised two years ago
Remand inmates are being held in shameful conditions while they await trial at Bristol Prison, according to a new report.

The Board of Visitors, a body appointed by the home secretary to monitor all penal establishments, criticised Bristol Prison for keeping some remand inmates on a punishment regime in segregation.

The situation of these luckless, maybe innocent prisoners, is shaming to the prison service

Board of Visitors
These prisoners, some of whom are later found innocent by the courts, are kept in almost round-the-clock solitary confinement with no constructive activity, in some cases for more than a year.

Usually six remand prisoners are kept in the unit at a time, having requested segregation for their own protection while awaiting trial.

They are kept in the same conditions as prisoners who are being punished for committing offences while in prison.

Windowless room

The board's report said: "The mental state of these prisoners can only be guessed at, but some of the Board of Visitors are hard pushed to stomach their visits to these certainly luckless, maybe innocent, prisoners whose situation is so shaming to the prison service."

Bristol Prison was criticised for holding remand prisoners in the segregation unit on a punishment regime two years ago.

The authors of the report said since then they had "condemned the practice in the strongest terms to just about everybody we felt could influence the matter".

The Board of Visitors complained to the home secretary about conditions and as a result inmates were allowed association for five hours a week, but it took place in a windowless room, where the only piece of furniture was a bench which was fixed to the wall.

The report said: "The recent introduction of an extractor fan did little to improve the atmosphere in this non-habitable room.

"We were not surprised when some prisoners expressed a preference for their own cells."

Suicide attempts

The report also highlighted concerns that problems in the prison's C wing, which included the vulnerable prisoners unit for prisoners with mental health problems and learning disabilities, were getting worse.

The report said: "The increase in numbers has been accompanied by a rise in suicide attempts, self-harm and bullying."

It said staff were trying to cope with the most vulnerable prisoners in very poor conditions and with a lack of facilities.

It also said medical supervision was inadequate and the distribution of drugs was open to abuse.

Despite the criticisms the report concluded that many improvements had occurred at the prison.

It said their overall impression was "of a governor and staff struggling hard - and in the main succeeding - in operating a humane regime broadly within a necessarily tight budget."

The Board of Visitors report makes recommendations, to which Home Secretary Jack Straw will reply.

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See also:

13 Apr 00 | Health
Jails 'fail' mentally ill
03 Apr 00 | Scotland
Prison remand conditions slammed
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