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Updated: COVID-19: prisons and other prescribed places of detention guidance

Guidance for prisons and other prescribed places of detention on COVID-19 poster

COVID-19: prisons and other prescribed places of detention guidance

This guidance will assist healthcare staff and custodial/detention staff in addressing coronavirus (COVID-19) in prescribed places of detention (PPDs).

Main messages are:

  • any prisoner or detainee with a new, continuous cough or a high temperature should be placed in protective isolation for 7 days
  • if a member of staff becomes unwell on site with a new, continuous cough or a high temperature, they should go home
  • staff and prisoners should be reminded to wash their hands for 20 seconds more frequently and catch coughs and sneezes in tissues
  • frequently clean and disinfect objects and surfaces that are touched regularly, using your standard cleaning products
  • prisoners or detainees who have a new, continuous cough or a high temperature but are clinically well enough to remain in prescribed places of detention (PPDs) do not need to be transferred to hospital.
  • confirmed cases of coronavirus (COVID-19) should be notified by prison or immigration removal centre (IRC) healthcare teams as soon as possible to local Public Health England Health Protection Teams
  • people who are severely unwell may be transferred to appropriate healthcare facilities with usual escorts and following advice on safe transfers
  • staff should wear specified personal protective equipment (PPE) for activities requiring sustained close contact with possible cases (see below for detail)
  • if facing multiple cases of those displaying symptoms, ‘cohorting’, or the gathering of potentially infected cases into a designated area, may be necessary
  • PPD leaders should be assessing their estate for suitable isolation and cohorting provision

Please note This guidance is of a general nature and should be treated as a guide, and in the event of any conflict between any applicable legislation (including the health and safety legislation) and this guidance, the applicable legislation shall prevail.

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12th May 2020

MOJ stakeholder update:

As of 17:00 on SUNDAY 10 MAY: 397 prisoners have tested positive for COVID-19 across 74 prisons; 479 prison staff have tested positive for COVID-19 across 69 prisons; 15 (PECS) staff have tested positive for COVID-19

Proposals to release some offenders from prison earlier than planned have been shelved by the government.

The change faced opposition from a number of Tory MPs and a Whitehall source told the BBC it was no longer necessary as the coronavirus outbreak has eased pressure on the prison system with fewer cases going to the courts.

Inmates could still be released under the COVID early release scheme.

Learn More >>

COVID-19 population management strategy for prisons

Public Health England have worked closely with HM Prison & Probation Service and NHS England to enhance social distancing, protect the most vulnerable, and increase compartmentalisation in prisons in England. Outbreaks of COVID-19 in prisons affecting staff and prisoners are being seen currently but early emerging data collected by PHE suggests that the ‘explosive outbreaks’ of COVID-19 which were feared at the beginning of the pandemic wave are not being seen. Instead, there is evidence of containment of outbreaks.

 

Update on COVID-19 in prisons
Update on covid-19 in prisons

This follows new modelling by Public Health England (PHE) and HM Prison and Probation Service (HMPPS) that indicates jails are successfully limiting deaths and the transmission of the virus within the estate.

The new modelling predicts a drastic reduction in the spread rates of the infection compared to previous forecasts, with each case being passed on to less than one person –and monitoring suggests overall infection rates are falling.

This means that as a result of the strong measures introduced by HMPPS, lives should be saved and the NHS is being protected from the impact of widespread local outbreaks.

HMPPS is containing the spread of COVID-19 within jails using an approach known as ‘compartmentalisation’. Through this approach, staff have isolated those with symptoms, and many prisons have been able to shield the vulnerable and quarantine new arrivals.

Separating those with symptoms has been ongoing since early February and coupled with the wider action taken, this has limited the spread of confirmed Coronavirus cases in jails. The majority of those infected have now made a successful recovery.

HMPPS took decisive action in March to minimise movements between jails to avoid thousands of prisoners and staff becoming infected with the virus. Strong further measures were introduced to ease pressure on prisons with the early release of low-risk offenderstemporary expansion of the estate, and work to reduce the number of those held on remand.

The new modelling shows that reducing the prison population by 5,000 could be effective in limiting the spread of the virus. Thanks to wide measures taken, the population has already reduced by almost 3,000 over a seven-week period. Combining a reduction in the prison population, creating additional headroom in the estate, and managing prisoners through ‘compartmentalisation’, HMPPS can continue to protect life.

Prisons and Probation Minister, Lucy Frazer QC MP, said:

This Government has taken unprecedented action during this difficult period to save lives and protect the NHS. I cannot express sufficient gratitude to the hard-working prison and healthcare staff, and prisoners, who have allowed this to take place. My thoughts are with all of those affected by this terrible virus.

We know further progress is needed if we are to continue to strike a balance between limiting the spread of COVID-19 and protecting the public. We appreciate that unusual measures will need to remain in place for some time and significant challenges remain.

But there are positive signs that our carefully implemented approach is limiting the impact of this initial phase of the pandemic – actual cases and deaths so far are much lower than originally predicted. We will continue to do everything possible to make sure this remains the case.

Prison staff have continued to ensure the effective running of jails and many hundreds are returning to work after periods of absence to comply with public health guidance.

This is being helped by an increase in staff testing, with over a thousand referred for testing in the past fortnight. Personal protective equipment is also being provided to prison officers and all jails have the soap and cleaning materials they need.

Work to create the additional space in the prison estate will continue at pace, with the installation of hundreds of temporary, single occupancy cells alongside the scheme to release low-risk offenders. Efforts to expedite sentencing hearings for those on remand are ongoing.

All our actions have been informed by the advice of experts from PHE and will be kept under constant review. The revised model on transmission of COVID-19 in prisons is available.

 

Rachel Yates

Tributes have been paid to a prison officer who died after contracting coronavirus.

Rachael Yates, 33, worked at the category C Usk Prison in Monmouthshire, having previously worked at the town’s post office.

Ms Yates is the fourth member of prison staff in the UK to die after falling ill with Covid-19.

Usk Town Council paid tribute to her in a post on Facebook.

They said: “Many of you will remember Rachael and her cheery nature working alongside Jane behind the counter at the old post office in Bridge Street – often in Victorian costume – and some of you may have seen her recently around Usk where she had been working at Usk Prison.

“Our thoughts are very much with her family at this very sad time.”

A Prison Service spokeswoman said: “An officer at HMP Usk sadly passed away on April 21 and our deepest sympathies are with her loved ones and colleagues at this difficult time.”

1800 hrs 21st April 2020

Almost 300 prisoners have tested positive for coronavirus in more than half of jails in England and Wales.

There are now a total of 278 confirmed cases in 64 prisons as of 5pm on Sunday, according to the Ministry of Justice (MoJ), and 13 inmates have died.

Some 194 prison staff have also contracted the virus in 53 jails as well as eight prisoner escort and custody services staff.

More >>

 

00.01 hrs 17th April 2020

The following is the rules relating to the Early Release of prisoners while a Coronavirus Control Period is in operation

9A.—Coronavirus Restricted Temporary Release

(1) During a transmission control period, the Secretary of State may, in accordance with the other provisions of this rule, temporarily release a prisoner falling within a description specified in a direction made under this rule.

(2) A prisoner may only be released under this rule (subject to paragraph (3)) if—

View full new Rules >>

Prison estate expanded to protect NHS from coronavirus risk

  • First wave of 500 temporary cells to be installed at prisons
  • Extra prison space will limit spread of Coronavirus in jails
  • Builds on Government’s action to protect staff, prisoners and the NHS

Across the estate Prisons are moving towards single-cell accommodation, as much as possible, to limit the spread of infection and the number of deaths. More >>

Wednesday 8th April 2020

Failure to drastically and urgently reduce the number of prisoners behind bars to protect them and others from coronavirus “will have a devastating impact”, campaigners have warned. The comments came after it emerged the death toll of inmates who had died after contracting the virus had risen to 10. Three were inmates at HMP Littlehey, Cambridgeshire, with others being held at Birmingham, Manchester, Altcourse in Merseyside, Belmarsh in south east London, Whatton in Nottinghamshire, Sudbury in Derbyshire, and a female prisoner at Low Newton, County Durham. A total of 116 prisoners had tested positive for Covid-19 in 43 prisons as of 5pm on Monday. There are 19 prison staff in 12 jails who have contracted the virus as well as four prison escort and custody services staff. More >>

Sunday 5th April 2020 Two Prison Officers at Pentonville Prison have died after suffering Covid-19 symptoms.

Bovil Peter and Patrick Beckford were both Operational Support Officers at the jail, and were believed to be aged in their 60s. https://prisons.org.uk/category/prison-news-desk/

03.00 hrs Saturday 4th April 2020 Around 4,000 low risk prisoners to be released

Measures announced to protect NHS from coronavirus risk in prisons

Around 4,000 risk-assessed prisoners who are within two months of their release date will be temporarily released from jail, as part of the national plan to protect the NHS and save lives.

  • Plan to protect the NHS from further pressure
  • Measures will also benefit brave prison staff
  • Selected low-risk offenders, within weeks of their release dates, will be electronically tagged and temporarily released on licence in stages
  • Offenders can be recalled at the first sign of concern
  • Violent and sexual offenders and those of security concern will not be considered

This action being taken is necessary to avoid thousands of prisoners becoming infected, overwhelming local NHS services. This is due to the close proximity between prisoners, who often share cells.

Prisoners who pass the stringent criteria for release will be subject to strict conditions, and will be electronically monitored, including with GPS tags, to enforce the requirement to stay at home.

They can be immediately recalled to prison for breaching these conditions or committing further offences. The releases will be phased over time but can start from next week.

Public protection is paramount. No high-risk offenders, including those convicted of violent or sexual offences, anyone of national security concern or a danger to children, will be considered for release, nor any prisoners who have not served at least half their custodial term. Additionally, no offender convicted of COVID-19 related offences, including coughing at emergency workers or stealing personal protective equipment, will be eligible.

No prisoner would be released if they have symptoms of coronavirus or without housing and health support being in place.

In addition, the Ministry of Justice is working to identify publicly owned sites that could be used to house temporary prison accommodation to ease pressure on the permanent estate, further separate prisoners and reduce the spread of the virus.

Lord Chancellor and Justice Secretary Robert Buckland QC MP said:

This Government is committed to ensuring that justice is served to those who break the law.

But this is an unprecedented situation because if Coronavirus takes hold in our prisons, the NHS could be overwhelmed and more lives put at risk.

All prisoners will face a tough risk assessment and must comply with strict conditions, including an electronic tag, while they are closely monitored. Those that do not will be recalled to prison.

Some 88 prisoners and 15 staff have tested positive for COVID-19.

Prison staff have continued to ensure the effective running of our jails despite around 26% being absent or self-isolating. To further protect them and reduce pressure on prisons, the Ministry of Justice is already:

  • Shielding vulnerable prisoners through social distancing measures
  • Re-deploying staff, where appropriate, from headquarters into operational roles
  • Working with the judiciary to expedite sentencing hearings for those on remand to reduce the numbers being held in custody.

Prisons are moving towards single-cell accommodation as much as possible across the estate – to limit the spread of infection and the number of deaths. This follows public health advice that prisons present a unique environment where rapid outbreaks of the virus could place a significant strain on local NHS services.

Strong, further action now will strike the right balance between protecting the public and managing the risk of an escalating situation in prisons.

Steps are being taken to expand the use of electronic monitoring to facilitate the safe release of more low-risk prisoners who were due to leave jail in the next two months regardless.

This means those nearing the end of their sentences will be released in stages on temporary licence – allowing prisons to continue to safely manage vulnerable but higher-risk offenders within the estate.

Statutory Instruments to allow these releases to take place will be laid on Monday and the move aligns us with countries such as France, the United States, Australia, Germany, and Canada who have also sanctioned the early release of prisoners.

France has announced the release of some 5,000 prisoners, while in the US state of California alone, 3,500 are being granted early release.

The Prison Service has already taken decisive action to ensure prisons are complying with social distancing rules and provided alternative means for prisoners to keep in touch with their families after cancelling family visits.

Additionally, the Justice Secretary Robert Buckland granted temporary release of pregnant women in custody, while movements between jails have been limited in all but exceptional cases.

All actions have been informed by the advice of experts from Public Health England and will be kept under constant review.

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APPROVED PREMISES
View >> Official  Covid-19 Information and Advice for Staff and Residents of Approved Premises Database
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We understand that friends and families of those in prison are concerned about the spread of coronavirus.

Please see below for our responses to questions you may have, which we will continue to update regularly. For further updates, please follow us on Twitter @hmpps.

Children

Q: What steps will prisons be taking to support relationships with parents and their young children who cannot write letters or leave voicemails?

A: Around 60% of cells now have in-cell telephony, and we have contingency measures in place to ensure prisoners can maintain contact with their family via other means. This includes the provision of 900 locked mobile phones. These handsets will enable prisoners to phone the existing PIN phone system and, when connected, the experience will be the same as if they were using a landing PIN phone.

Self-Isolation

Q: If a cellmate has coronavirus, will the other individual be put in isolation?

A: If a prisoner displays symptoms, they will need to be isolated along with any other person who would, in a community setting, be deemed a member of their household. This will always include any prisoner who is currently sharing a cell with the symptomatic prisoner, regardless of whether they are symptomatic.

Post

Q: Can friends/family still send through post?

A: Yes, all prisons are still receiving post. We recognise that this is a really important way for prisoners to keep in touch with families while everyone is in isolation.

Phone service

Q: Will phone calls be free of charge?

A: There’s no change to the call charge policy. Phone services in prisons are not free, but additional credit will be considered on compassionate grounds by prisons.

Q: Who can prisoners call?

A: Prisons use a call-enabling service, whereby prisoners can request telephone numbers added to their account (subject to public protection checks). In addition, there are a range of advocacy and support lines pre-approved on all accounts, such as Samaritans and the Prisoner Advice Service.

Q: Will prisoners have access to the internet on the phones?

A: In-cell telephones and the additional phone sets do not have access to the internet. You cannot email prisoners directly, but some prisons use a service called Email a Prisoner. If you send a message this way, it will be printed out and delivered by prison staff.

Q: Is there a list of prisons that the additional 900 phones have been given to?

A: The additional phone sets were issued to all prisons that do not currently have in-cell telephony installed. They have been issued to 57 sites, including prisons, Immigration Removal Centres and Foreign National Centres.

Transfers

Q: Will prisoner transfers still happen?

A: As a result of the coronavirus pandemic, all non-essential transfers of prisoners have ceased. This is to contain the outbreak, and for the health and safety of prisoners and prison and escort vehicle staff.

Visits

Q: How long are prison visits suspended for?

A: Measures suspending prison visits are part of the nationwide efforts to fight coronavirus. They are temporary and we will review the restrictions, taking into account public health advice.

Mental health

Q: Can visitors still go through to the safer custody team to enquire about prisoner welfare?

A: If someone has a concern about the welfare of an individual prisoner, they can contact the prison via the safety hotline.

Q: How will mental health support be enhanced during this period?

A: The safety of those who live and work in prisons remains our top priority. We have provided additional guidance to prisons around supporting people at risk of harming themselves. Whilst prisoners are having to spend more time in their cells they will be given access to essential and support services such as the Samaritans through the prison landing, in-cell and handset pin phones.

Release

Q: Are prisoners who are granted Release on Temporary Licence (ROTL) still able to do so?

A: All release on temporary licence has been suspended except where the prisoner is working as a key worker in line with government guidance, or there are compelling compassionate reasons to release.

Q. Will prisoners be released on time?

A: Yes, prisoners will not be kept in prison past their release date.

Facilities

Q: Does every prisoner across the estate have access to soap, hot water and showers – and how regularly?

A: The Prison Service has a contract with a major supplier of cleaning and personal hygiene goods, which are routinely delivered into jails. Prisoners also have access to a weekly canteen order where they can order specific hygiene products in addition to those provided by the establishment. Exact quantities and types of toiletries provided are decided at a local level based on individual needs. All prisoners should have regular access to showers.

1600 hrs 30th March 2020:  Ministry of Justice (MoJ) confirmed that, as of 5.40pm on Sunday, 55 prisoners had tested positive for coronavirus in 21 different prisons.
Full details on our Newsdesk

1630 hrs 27th March: Some 27 inmates have now tested positive for coronavirus in 14 different prisons.
Full details on our Newsdesk

HMPPS ADVICE: 1300 hours 27th March
HMPPS announce changes to prisoners work, pay and the introduction of a range of special measures during the Covid-19 lockdown.
Full details on our Newsdesk

17.30 26th March:

Main messages are:

  • any prisoner/detainee with a new, continuous cough or a high temperature should be placed in protective isolation for 7 days
  • if a member of staff or visitor becomes unwell on site with a new, continuous cough or a high temperature, they should go home
  • staff, prisoners and visitors should be reminded to wash their hands for 20 seconds more frequently and catch coughs and sneezes in tissues
  • frequently clean and disinfect objects and surfaces that are touched regularly, using your standard cleaning products
  • prisoners or detainees who have a new, continuous cough or a high temperature but are clinically well enough to remain in prescribed places of detention (PPDs) do not need to be transferred to hospital.
  • confirmed cases of coronavirus (COVID-19) should be notified by prison or immigration removal centre (IRC) healthcare teams as soon as possible to local Public Health England Health Protection Teams
  • people who are severely unwell may be transferred to appropriate healthcare facilities with usual escorts and following advice on safe transfers
  • staff should wear specified personal protective equipment (PPE) for activities requiring sustained close contact with possible cases (see below for detail)
  • if facing multiple cases of those displaying symptoms, ‘cohorting’, or the gathering of potentially infected cases into a designated area, may be necessary
  • PPD leaders should be assessing their estate for suitable isolation and cohorting provision
    Full details on our Newsdesk

16.45: 26th March 2020: HMPPS issues new guidance about the reduction in prison regimes.  Changes to regimes The usual regime in prisons has been paused temporarily to apply social distancing. This is vital for keeping prisoners and staff safe and preventing the spread of the virus. This means prisoners can no longer take part in usual recreational activities such as using the gym, going to worship or visiting the library. Only essential workers such as kitchen staff or wing cleaners will continue with their jobs but people will still get paid. Support for prisoners, such as advice on in-cell worship, exercise and managing anxiety will be provided.
Full details on our Newsdesk

1420: 26th March 2020: Second prisoner dies after contracting coronavirus while inside – this time at HMP Manchester
Full details on our Newsdesk

1400: 26th March 2020: Coughing at police officers while claiming to have Covid-19: two years in prison
Full details on our Newsdesk

1100: 26th March 2020: First Covid-19 Death in Prison at HMP Littlehey
Full details on our Newsdesk

25th March 2020

Latest Figures 1pm Wednesday 25th March 2020

Some 19 inmates have now tested positive for coronavirus in 10 different prisons.

The number of cases, which the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) said was accurate as of 1pm on Wednesday, has jumped up by six in 24 hours.

Jails in England and Wales were put on immediate lockdown on Tuesday with all visits cancelled as it emerged thousands of staff were in self-isolation.

Jo Farrar, chief executive of the Prison and Probation Service, told the Commons Justice Committee around 4,300 prison and probation staff overall were self-isolating at present.

Some 3,500 were prison staff – representing about 10% of the workforce – and four have tested positive for Covid-19, each in separate jails.

There have been three prisoner escort and custody services staff and eight probation staff who have also tested positive.

Around 50,000 protective masks have been delivered for staff to use and a ban on bringing hand sanitiser into the prison had been lifted.

Justice Secretary Robert Buckland has hinted he may have to consider some forms of early release for prisoners in a bid to ease pressure on jails during the crisis.

Peter Dawson, director of the Prison Reform Trust, said: “The risks of infection for people who live and work in prisons are acute, as the Justice Secretary has said.

“So while it is obviously right that the way of life in prisons should change dramatically, just as it has in the wider community, Robert Buckland is right to be considering forms of early release.

“In a chronically overcrowded system, this will help keep people safe by reducing the pressure on both space and staff resources.

“For this to work, there will need to be support to organisations, many of them charities, that help prisoners on release.

“And it’s vital that while creating some headroom through releases, the flow of people into prisons is also drastically reduced.

“That means not sending anyone to prison for all but the most serious alleged or proved offending, and not recalling people to prison in all but the most dangerous of circumstances.”

Keep up to Date with latest information >>

Video>> Watch the Justice Secretary giving evidence about Prisons and Covid-19 to the Justice Select Committee on 24th March 2020

BACKGROUND

Prison visits are temporarily suspended following instructions for people to stay at home, protect the NHS and save lives.

We will update you here as soon as this changes.

Currently HMPPS state there are 13 inmates who have tested positive for Covid-19 but they expect this number to increase

There are a number of other ways to contact someone in prison if you are unable to visit them.

You can:

You can also contact the Prisoners’ Families Helpline on 0808 808 2003.

Keep up to Date with latest information >>

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