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Last Updated: Friday, 25 August 2006, 04:41 GMT 05:41 UK
Prison praised on safety measures
HMP New Hall
New Hall has a "challenging and needy" mix of inmates
A women's prison that has been troubled by self-harming inmates and suicides is working hard to provide a safe environment, inspectors have said.

An unannounced inspection at New Hall jail found bullying was not tolerated and healthcare and work had improved.

Suicide and self-harm procedures were also deemed satisfactory, but the chief inspector of prisons Anne Owers said there was room for further development.

In 2004, there were four self-inflicted deaths at the jail and one in May 2006.

Inspectors revisited the jail, near Wakefield, in March 2006. Its last full inspection was carried out in November 2003.

Areas of concern during their latest visit included weak first night procedures, a backlog of sentence plans for longer-term prisoners and poor provision of some basic facilities, such as access to phones and visits.

Damaged women

Ms Owers said the jail had a "challenging and needy mix" of inmates and had gone through a "dreadful period" with more than 1,000 incidents of self-harm during 2005.

"Despite these traumas, managers and staff deserve credit for seeking to develop and improve their establishment," she said.

"But this tragic backcloth emphasises, yet again, that prison - even an improving prison - is no place for damaged women and girls desperately in need of a more supportive and therapeutic environment."

Director of the prison service Phil Wheatley welcomed the recognition of improvements that have been made since the jail's last full inspection in 2003.

"Female prisoners present a number of challenging needs and I am confident that the care New Hall provides will continue to improve," he said.

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