HC Deb 17 July 1985 vol 83 cc160-1W
Mr. Irving

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will make a statement about the future of Holloway prison.

Mr. Brittan

The report of the Holloway project committee, which was set up last December under the chairmanship of the director of the south east region. Prison Department, has now been submitted to the Director General of the Prison Service and I have arranged for copies to be placed in the Library and the Vote Office.

The project committee's report provides a valuable analysis of Holloway's difficulties. I very much welcome the committee's positive programme for an urgent increase in the prison's remand capacity, the development of its regimes, improvements in management structure, and ways of reviewing staff deployment to ensure that the prisoners get more time in association and more access to Holloway's extensive facilities. I want to see particular progress in the following areas.

I have asked for urgent consideration to be given to how Holloway's operating capacity can be increased to 400 as soon as possible, as the committee recommends. A manpower appraisal will be carried out and staff deployment at Holloway will be closely monitored, to ensure the most effective use of resources. The aim must be to provide as positive a regime as possible.

The specialist functions consequent on Holloway's role as the major local prison for women in the south-east will remain. These include the capacity to accommodate unsentenced women who are highly disturbed, many of whom will come within the ambit of mental health legislation but for whom a period of assessment in secure conditions may be required. These prisoners are presently accommodated on C1 unit. I accept the committee's view that C1 unit is not currently meeting their needs as well as it should, despite the best efforts of the staff, which I also commend, and that urgent action is needed to rectify its deficiencies. Its physical state is wholly unsatisfactory and its management structure is not clear. I acknowledge the desirability of re-siting C1 unit in purpose-built accommodation in a different part of the establishment and have asked for an urgent assessment of whether this is feasible.

But C1 cannot be rebuilt overnight. Immediate steps will be taken to improve conditions on the unit. Particular attention will be paid to improvements to the fabric, the replacement of potentially dangerous fittings, and the provision of more space for association. High priority will be given to improving the regime on CI so that the prisoners there can take full advantage of the specialist training and therapeutic facilities available. The management structure and oversight of the unit will be reviewed. Particularly attention will be paid to the need to improve liaison between the nursing and discipline officer staff, and the need to create an environment conducive to the assessment and treatment of disturbed inmates. For as long as the unit contains both remand prisoners for assessment and difficult sentenced prisoners for special care, its routines must recognise the different requirements of these groups.

The rapid throughput of prisoners at Holloway has limited the extent to which the therapeutic unit for women prisoners with drug and other dependency problems has been able to fulfil its role. The unit will, as the committee recommends, be discontinued in its present form. Meanwhile, women with dependency problems who might benefit from a therapeutic regime will continue to be provided with specialist professional care on an individual basis.