Absconder numbers doubled at Kirkham Prison last year, while drug use and violence was also up
The number of absconders from Kirkham Prison doubled inside a year – and drug use and violence are still concerning issues there, says a new report.
A change of governor early last year helped bring greater stability to the jail, says the Independent Monitoring Board (IMB) in its report covering 2019.
But despite the best efforts of the governor and staff, there was an increase in drug use as well as absconds, which numbered 36 over the 12 months compared to 18 the previous year.
The increasing use of crack cocaine is a particular cause for concern and the IMB, as well as calling for improved detection of drugs and disablement of associated mobile phones, says it is important that the prison service “provides the governor with the resources to tackle more robustly the drug culture, the consequent debt issues and threats to individuals”.
Terming 2019 “a challenging year for the prison”, the IMB says it still believes as in previous years that, despite assurances from the prisons minister, prisoners are arriving at the Category D jail in Freckleton Road who are not suitable for open conditions.
It feels an increase in levels of violence, with three incidents last year requiring the opening of the command suite and attendance by the Board, compared to no more than one in previous reporting periods, “indicates the volatile mix of prisoners now in Kirkham”.
The report says the new governor took a hard line with prisoners who were involved in drug dealing or drug debt, with many of them quickly returned to closed conditions but others absconded before being moved out.
The age demographic of prisoners at Kirkham also changed, with a larger number of under-30s, an age group, says the report, which has proved to present the biggest risk of abscond, “in many cases due to immaturity in thinking and reasoning”.
IMB Kirkham chairman Jean Adam said: “The arrival of a new governor in early 2019 helped to stabilise the prison and a hard line was taken with prisoners involved in drug dealing or drug debt.
“Many of them were quickly returned to closed conditions but others took matters into their own hands and absconded before being moved out.
“Despite the increase in absconds during the year the prison has remained stable and maintained a population of around 620 men.”