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Last Updated: Friday, 6 February, 2004, 10:10 GMT
Jail problems over staff shortage
Cookham Wood Prison
New measures have been put in place to improve the regime
Chronic staff shortages at a women's prison have stopped prisoners from regularly contacting their families and children, a report has revealed.

The report also said an inspection last October found cells for women at risk of suicide were regularly unstaffed.

The report into Cookham Wood Prison in Rochester was published on Friday by the Chief Inspector of Prisons.

However, the report did praise Cookham Wood for the good relationships formed between staff and prisoners.

You can't always have association time and sometimes you can't get a shower and that's something every inmate feels disturbed about

The report showed the good relations had survived despite the staff shortages but said the inmates' association time had suffered.

During association time prisoners leave their cells, mix with each other and make phone calls to their families and friends.

One inmate said: "You can't always have association time and sometimes you can't get a shower and that's something every inmate feels disturbed about."

Governor Ed Tullitt has said the situation was being addressed and new systems were in place to improve the quality of life for prisoners.

Mr Tullitt, who took over at the prison two months ago, said: "We have put in some rigorous monitoring procedures and we have started a recruitment campaign to get more people on board.

'Better regime'

"We have also put in new systems to provide more predictable association times for prisoners.

"In a few months those staffing problems will go away and we will be able to run a better regime for the prisoners in our care."

Mr Tullitt praised staff who have formed close relationships with the prisoners and said the small size of the institution allowed them to "behave as a family".

Hazel Banks, the operations manager for Cookham Wood said the report would help the prison.

Ms Banks said: "I think the inspectors told the story of Cookham Wood in an honest and frank way and in a way which is helpful to the governor and his team.

"It will help take forward initiatives that will improve the performance and quality of life for the prisoners and the staff at Cookham Wood. "

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