Bishop of Rochester asks Government about Covid-19 in prisons

On 16th June the Rt Revd James Langstaff, Bishop of Rochester received written answers to three questions on coronavirus in prisons.

The Lord Bishop of Rochester: HL5101 To ask Her Majesty’s Government to what extent each prison in England and Wales has implemented (1) the compartmentalisation strategy, (2) protective isolation units and shielding units, and (3) reverse cohorting units.

Lord Keen of Elie: We continue to implement our compartmentalisation strategy: isolating the symptomatic, quarantining new arrivals and shielding the vulnerable. This strategy has shown early signs of success in reducing transmission in the prison estate.

As of 15 June, 96% of prisons have fully implemented compartmentalisation. Broken down by unit, 98% have fully implemented protective isolation units; 98% have fully implemented shielding units; and 98% have fully implemented reverse cohorting units.

The Lord Bishop of Rochester: HL5100 To ask Her Majesty’s Government in which prisons prisoners can access video calls; and what is the level of provision of facilities to make such calls in each of those prisons.

Lord Keen of Elie: The Government recognises the importance of maintaining family ties and following the cancellation of social prison visits it has moved quickly to keep prisoners in touch with their family members by other means.

Following a successful trial at HMP Berwyn, Her Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service (HMPPS) is introducing secure video calling to prisons and young offender institutions (YOIs) across England and Wales to maintain vital family contact for prisoners and young offenders during the coronavirus pandemic.

As of 5 June we have deployed equipment to 20 establishments. (HMP Berwyn, HMP Bronzefield, HMP Buckley Hall, HMP Chelmsford, HMP Deerbolt, HMP Downview, HMP Durham, HMP Eastwood Park, HMP Full Sutton, HMP Garth, HMP High Down, HMP Hull, HMP Send, HMP Stocken, HMP Swinfen Hall, HMP Wayland, HMYOI Cookham Wood, HMYOI Feltham,HMYOI Werrington, HMYOI Wetherby).

Details of establishments where families can book calls is updated as they go live on GOV.UK and social media for families. The level of provision to offer calls will differ by establishment based on local circumstances.

The Lord Bishop of Rochester: HL5098 To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the impact of any increase in court activity on the level of COVID-19 infection amongst the prison population.

Lord Keen of Elie: All new receptions into prison including those received from the courts are screened for signs and symptoms of Covid-19 by healthcare professionals and are quarantined in a Reverse Cohorting Unit (RCU) until it is safe to be moved.

On 2 June, this Government published the National Framework for Prison Regimes and Services which sets out the conditional roadmap for the gradual resumption of services and regimes in prisons. One of the key objectives highlighted in this document is to ensure that we have enough space to receive from the courts and sufficient capacity to meet overall demand, while managing the risks of infection through the continued implementation of our compartmentalisation strategy.

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