A Human Rights Based Approach Overview of HMP Addiewell
The application and delivery of the Standards is crucial for ensuring that both the human dignity of the prisoner is upheld and that prisons are places of productive, positive and useful education, work and interaction, leading to better outcomes in reducing re‑offending and keeping our communities safer.
Inspectors found mixed evidence of systematic participation within the prison. Whilst a number of appropriate structures were in place, e.g. Prisoner Information and Activity Committee (PIACS), a Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) forum and the introduction of a new framework that focused on mainstreaming protected characteristics. It was evident that there was a lack of awareness among prisoners of the available processes to influence decision‑making.
Active participation was also an issue raised by staff. Many of those interviewed expressed low levels of support and felt they were ‘not heard’ by prison management. This issue is relevant from a human rights perspective, as frontline staff play an important role in enabling prisoners to exercise their fundamental rights. Again, some of the structures in place, such as the ‘bright ideas’ option for staff, were commendable. However, it appeared that a low proportion of staff knew about it.
Inspectors also encountered examples of good practice in this area, particularly in relation to the new D&I strategy (mainstreaming the protected characteristics with Sodexo’s six quality of life dimensions); the involvement of D&I prisoner reps; the variety of D&I activities; the work of the chaplaincy and the content of educational programmes where standards, procedures and staff practices allowed prisoners to be meaningfully involved.
The family visits, and the movie night and family programme that runs alongside it, were also a positive development in relation to participation and human rights. It is also important that foreign nationals equally enjoy this right. Special measures should be taken to encourage and enable foreign prisoners to maintain regular and meaningful contact with their children. Family visits are a right and not a privilege, and upholding the right to family life is more than just allowing the act of visits to occur. The prison could take a greater active role to facilitate communication of foreign nationals with their families abroad, for example via video conference. HMP Addiewell had this facility, but it was not used to facilitate visits.
Disappointingly, induction of prisoners with little to no English and those being cared for in accordance with the protection regime was inconsistent in practice, with some prisoners receiving no information or receiving it late after a few weeks in the prison.
Translation services were used. However, staff did not feel empowered to access it, resulting in under use. Induction information and a leaflet for foreign nationals were available in a range of common languages. However, a focus group with foreign nationals confirmed that some had not in fact received such information or the possibility of contacting their embassies. Many were asked to provide translation for other prisoners, which raised issues of risk and privacy. There was also little participation by this type of prisoner in cultural activities and religious celebrations. Consequently, they felt isolated. The right to information must be especially guaranteed for certain categories of detainees who, for reasons of language, age, illness or intellectual disabilities do not have equal access to information. The prison could introduce a number of mechanisms to enable participation and provide information to prisoners. Meaningful participation must be active, free and meaningful and directly address issues of accessibility, including access to information in a form and a language that can be understood.
An important component to enable participation is the accessibility of the information. The reality is that some prisoners will require extra support to enable them to fully and meaningfully participate. Any barriers to participation should be identified and those prisoners should be assisted to overcome them in order to participate.
There appeared to be a framework of accountability in the prison. However, effective monitoring of human rights standards was not consistent at the time of the inspection. Accountability focuses on the state as duty bearer and its responsibility to respect, protect and fulfil the rights of prisoners. Inspectors were very concerned about the number of hours that prisoners in Douglas B hall were locked in their cells; up to 22 hours a day.
‘Recent international standards on conditions in prisons define solitary confinement as “the confinement of prisoners for 22 hours or more a day without meaningful human contact” and solitary confinement for a time period in excess of 15 consecutive days as “prolonged solitary confinement”. Indefinite or prolonged solitary confinement should be prohibited, as should imposing solitary confinement on prisoners with mental or physical disabilities when their conditions would be exacerbated by such measures.’
Separation of vulnerable detainees should be clearly distinct from solitary confinement and should never lead to restrictions on access to services (vocational training, work, etc.). It is particularly important that prisoners with mental health needs are housed in accommodation that is not restrictive and receive appropriate treatment, rather than being placed in higher security level facilities isolated from the normal regime, as was the case during the inspection. Some of the prisoners interviewed expressed a high level of anxiety due to a feeling of being unsafe in this hall.
Inspectors welcomed the Bus to Bed Review that took place in December 2017. It was noted that some changes were made because of it. However, some of the findings and recommendations had not been implemented or were still persistent. For example, those related to the admission desk; noticeboards were misplaced or too small to read at the reception; the telephone in reception did not have a speaker so calls to language line for foreign nationals proved difficult. The new mainstreaming approach (protected characteristics with Sodexo’s six quality of life dimensions) will ensure greater accountability, however, implementation is crucial. The new process should include monitoring and evaluation mechanisms.
A key aspect of accountability is addressing systematic concerns, in addition to individual ones. The D&I plan provided a good example of this in analysing data to identify repeated issues, such as those relating to race and sexuality, where forums were then arranged to identify if specific action was needed.
From information gathered from a range of focus groups in advance of the inspection and interviews during the inspection, there was a general awareness of complaints mechanisms in relation to the prison and the NHS, however, a low level of confidence in utilising them. During the inspection it was reported that complaints regarding the NHS remained unresolved and/or the content of the response was perfunctory. Some level of confidentiality is important in the complaint system. Some complaints boxes were not placed in discreet areas of the halls for example; they were placed next to the staff desk in the halls. The materials necessary to make a complaint (forms, pens, envelopes) should be freely available to all detainees without having to ask staff. Complaint forms such as the PCF1 were not available in some areas including the SRU. The written complaints examined were adequate, including information on the complainant’s identity, the content of the response, the action taken, and the outcome of the complaint. A number of complaints seemed to be resolved informally, through discussion with the prisoner. Whilst this is not to be discouraged, the outcome of the discussion and the prisoner’s views should be recorded, rather than simply noting that the matter had been resolved.
The prison should introduce a number of mechanisms to enhance accountability including a greater emphasis on monitoring of human rights standards on an individual basis, as well as greater clarity on mechanisms available to prisoners for challenging decisions made about their treatment and access to services.
The prison must ensure that reasonable adjustments are promptly provided for prisoners with disabilities. The ‘accessible cells’ used for this purpose were not adequately equipped with, for instance, accessible alarm points or able to accommodate access to both sides of the bed.
We recommend that steps are taken to improve the delivery of foreign national information leaflets during the reception process, and that staff are encouraged to make use of interpreting services at all points, including in the halls. A few prisoners expressed having difficulty understanding English and using the kiosks, which did not translate fully into foreign languages and therefore resulted in some prisoners receiving little information and potentially experiencing isolation. This was concerning as the establishment relied heavily on the kiosk for access to prison life.
Prisoners should understand their rights, and be fully supported so they are able to use their rights. Inspectors were concerned about the variability of information received by prisoners on the daily life of the prison, as explained above. Prisoners should be able to understand these processes and their entitlements, and the information should be available in a variety of formats to cater for those with different needs.
The information provided at national induction was comprehensive and largely accessible. Much crucial information necessary for prisoners to understand their rights and how to exercise them within the context of prison life was contained in the general folders. This information was crucial to empowering prisoners and achieving a shared understanding of the limits of their rights. However, not all prisoners interviewed had been offered this information. In practice, many prisoners learned about the regime from other prisoners, where they were able to do so. This particularly affected foreign nationals, who had fewer connections and were therefore more isolated. Information should always be communicated to prisoners in a manner that they understand.
It is equally important to empower staff in their duties. Awareness should be raised among staff of the mechanisms that are available to assist prisoners, and the role they play in facilitating these, so that they feel able to have ready access to them. For example, as the kiosk provides access to prison life, staff should ensure that prisoners with literacy, language or access needs are provided with assistance to make use of it, where needed. As noted above, staff expressed real issues of disempowerment in their decision‑making and investment in their wellbeing. This undermines their ability to deliver on all aspects of a human rights based approach.
A human rights based approach requires the recognition of rights as legally enforceable entitlements and is linked to national and international human rights law. It is important that all categories of prisoners enjoy the full range of human rights and that staff are adequately supported. Whilst the large majority of prisoners did so, this was not the case for a minority of prisoners as described in this report. Inspectors identified areas where they believe further action is required, in particular to ensure that more marginalised prisoners do not fall through the gap. The realisation of human rights is facilitated in practice by both the provision of information, and the need for proactive action to be taken to ensure prisoners are accessing their rights in practice.
Finally, we inspected a G4S prisoner transport van as a number of prisoners complained of the high temperatures and poor ventilation during their travel from court to the prison. The vans appeared to contain adequate safety measures and an air conditioning system, however, only when the engine was running. HMIPS recommend that G4S equip all prisoner transport vehicles with temperature control mechanisms adequate for the conditions under which the vehicles will be used in Scotland.