IMB’s latest report on HMP Norwich

Photo not by us. Taken from gypsyofthesky on Flickr.

The Independent Monitoring Board (IMB) recently released their annual report for HMP Norwich, which looks at the state of the prison and areas that need improving for the welfare of prisoners and prison staff.

Here are some quotes of interest from the 16 page document:

  • 5.2 Use of force on prisoners from minority ethnic groups and young adults remains high. In June 2016 with an adult population of 678, there were 115 incidents on 28 adults; Black Caribbean 10, White (English, Scot, Welsh, N. Irish, British) 16, Mixed Caribbean 2. The same month with Young Offender population of 52, there were 5 incidents of use of force on one prisoner (White).
  • 5.8 …Vegan choices are limited as veganism is viewed as a ‘lifestyle choice’.
  • 6.4 The [segregation unit] cells are basic and bare and the men become extremely bored as there is nothing to do.
  • 7.5 In February 2017, the Board observed an occasion when Reception had “run out” of valid pin credit for new prisoners. The Board has also been informed of a vulnerable prisoner having to wait 4 weeks before being able to access his pin and make phone calls, and a foreign national prisoner waiting for 15 days before being able to make a phone call.
  • 10.1 Prisoners have reported that the workshops available to them are ‘boring’ and they do not feel the experience will help them on release. Despite the activities agenda being planned around the prisoners’ needs analysis and job opportunities available in the local area, 65% of prisoners do not believe their prison job would help them on release. Some of the activities are mundane and repetitive.

The IMB’s report paints a picture of a relatively calm and “okay” prison. From the few brief conversations we’ve had with recently- and long-released prisoners that have spent time in HMP Norwich, this does seem to be the case.

Nonetheless there are some clearly obvious problems, as highlighted above, that show the place to be a far cry from comfortable. In particular the recurring problem of imposed boredom on prisoners, which no doubt inevitably leads a rise in agitation and increasing rates of conflict by and between them.

Also the laughable notion that veganism is simply a lifestyle choice, something that stands out in a city that many consider one of the UK’s most vibrant vegan hubs. Keep in mind that the cafe connected to the prison, Cafe Britannia, were proud to launch a dedicated vegan menu earlier this year.

The right of vegan prisoners’ access to the food they want to eat has been the site of numerous struggles around the world including Osman Evcan in Turkey and Eric King in the US, something that we as vegans, anarchists, and vegan anarchists can try to support as best we can. Currently DIT Collective does not have contact with people inside HMP Norwich facing this problem but would welcome any information on this as well as provide what support we are able.

The excuses given by the prison for its problems circle around the claim they just don’t have enough staff, something that has become increasingly big news across the country over the past 18 months. Anecdotal comments also suggests that many problems arise from prison officers simply not giving a fuck about prisoners, leading to an adversarial environment where prisoners feel no option but to fight back. Rightfully so.

It would be disingenuous of us to appear as though we know much about the inner workings of prisons. However we’ve highlighted the above points in an attempt to show that the awful stuff you hear happening in some of the more infamous prisons are happening right here in our home town as well.

As ever, fire to the prisons.

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