A new report by Chief Inspector of Prisons has praised Morton Hall Immigration Removal Centre in Lincolnshire as a safe establishment which supported the detainees it held.
Morton Hall served as a women’s prison for many years, and latterly held a high proportion of foreign national women. In May 2011 the prison was re-roled as an immigration removal centre. At the time of the inspection it held 362 adult men. The transition was not easy and a series of incidents culminated in an act of concerted indiscipline at Christmas in 2012.
However, Nick Hardwick, Chief Inspector of Prisons said this inspection found an impressive establishment that was safe, calm and positive.
Inspectors were pleased to find that physical security had been upgraded proportionately following the previous incidents.
Staff-detainee relationships were very good and detainees said they felt safe. The number of violent incidents was low and there was effective care and support for detainees at risk of suicide and self-harm.
‘Rule 35’ reports, which assess fitness for detention of detainees with special illnesses, or those who have experienced torture, were of good quality and had led to the appropriate release of some men.
A community agency, Children’s Links, provided good support to meet detainees’ welfare needs and dealt with some complex cases.
There was a good communications centre where detainees could use the internet and email and maintain contact with families and friends, although they could not use Skype or social networking sites.
The range of activities was good and facilities had been imaginatively adapted to meet the needs of the new population.
However some practices were inappropriate for an establishment where people were not held because they have been charged with a criminal offence.
Detainees were locked in their rooms at 8.30 in the evening, staff carried batons inappropriately and all detainees were handcuffed if they had to be taken out of the centre.
Inspectors were also concerned that what caused most anxiety and stress for detainees was concern about their immigration status and potential removal and some people had been held for very long periods – one for almost three years.
Inspectors were told detention was justified in some cases because there was a high risk the detainee would reoffend if released, but there was nothing detainees could do, as they could have done in a prison, to demonstrate their risk of reoffending had reduced.
“Good relationships, support to help detainees resolve their practical worries, and enough useful activity combined to create a safe and effective establishment,” Mr. Hardwick said. “Staff at Morton Hall are to be commended on the way they have managed the transition from the prison’s old role and overcome initial difficulties with determination and skill. The inspection identified some areas where improvement is required but Morton Hall now has very strong foundations on which to build.”