Ranby inmates confined to cells for hundreds of days

Inmates at Ranby Prison in Retford were confined to their cells for hundreds of days over just three months for breaking rules, according to Ministry of Justice data.

Friday, 8th February 2019, 5:27 pm
Updated Friday, 8th February 2019, 5:32 pm
Ranby Prison.
Ranby Prison.

Experts at the Howard League for Penal Reform says punishing inmates with confinement contributes to worsening conditions in prison.

But Ranby inmates committed 1,103 proven offences between July and September, of which 39 resulted in the culprit being kept to a cell. The offending prisoners received 361 days of confinement.

HM Prison and Probation Service guidance states that adult prisoners can be confined to their cells for up to 21 days for a single offence, with young offenders getting up to ten days.

According to the figures, prisoners at Ranby were most likely to be have been in their cells for non-violent offences, with 34 incidents over the three-month period.

Of these, 14 were for being caught with unauthorised items, which could be anything from weapons to mobile phones. For these offences, they spent a total of 82 days locked in their cells.

Prisoners endangered the health and safety of people around them six times, racking up 59 days in all.

Long periods of cell confinement can cause the mental and physical health of prisoners to deteriorate, according to HM Inspectorate of Prisons.

In a 2017 report, the inspectorate said it was also concerned that many inmates were spending up to 22 hours in ‘unpleasant’ cells, worsening the impact of extended confinement.

Offenders can be sent to a designated segregation unit, but are often locked up in their own cells.

Howard League chief executive Frances Crook said: “Prisoners punished with confinement will have their things taken away and are locked up with no stimulation.

“If there are cellmates involved, that creates a lot of resentment and tension, since taking away things like TVs and radios effectively punishes them as well.”

The Howard League said it recognises that sanctioning rule-breakers is necessary, but said an incentive and praise-focused system would be more effective.

Ms Crook added: “Justice is not a synonym for punishment.

“Prisons should be trying to create hope for the future, rather than trying to punish their way out of problems.”

An HM Prison Service spokesperson said: “It is right that governors who know their prisons best have the freedom to decide how to deal with those who break the rules.

“We are reviewing the existing disciplinary processes as part of our wider programme of prison reform.”

Across England and Wales, nearly 7,000 incidents over the three-month period resulted in almost 50,000 days of confinement, the equivalent of 130 years locked up.