Littlehey Prison problems in spotlight

ONE disabled elderly patient at Littlehey Prison in Perry went a year without a bath or a shower until someone took pity and offered to help him, according to the jail s independent monitoring board. He couldn t use the shower because of his disability,

ONE disabled elderly patient at Littlehey Prison in Perry went a year without a bath or a shower until someone took pity and offered to help him, according to the jail's independent monitoring board.

"He couldn't use the shower because of his disability," the board's deputy chairman, Helen Boothman, told The Hunts Post this week. "All they needed to do for him to use the bath was to get a bath-board and a rubber mat. It would have cost about �15 to solve the problem. There's a frustration that things like this have not happened."

The issue highlighted the problems faced by elderly and infirm inmates, who make up about 10 per cent of the category C prison's 726-strong offender population, with enough cells for 663, according to the board's annual report, published this week.

Overall, the report found the institution to be well run, safe and decent, but it highlighted two particular areas for concern - the issue of older inmates and poor communications with them.

Mrs Boothman called for the governor to investigate an alarm-call system equivalent to that provided for vulnerable people in their own homes by local authorities and charities.

"If a prisoner who is elderly or disabled has a fall in the cell, he is not necessarily going to be able to reach the cell bell," Mrs Boothman said. "They need alarms round their necks. Things could be put in place to make life bearable for those inside. When it doesn't happen for a year, that's a year out of somebody's life.

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"When you have people aged over 80 in prison, you have to have the right facilities for them. But it's always jam tomorrow, and there's a lot of time being taken up with the new build [of a 480-bed extension to house young offenders]".

Eighty per cent of the inmates at Littlehey, which opened in 1988, are sex offenders, 70 of them are serving life sentences, 15 per cent are foreign nationals. There are currently 51 different nationalities, speaking 42 different languages, the report says.

"The board considers that overall Littlehey continues to be a well-run establishment where prisoners live in a safe and respectful environment.

"However, a number of changes at national and local level, including changes in the management team, have at times altered the ethos of the prison and resulted in a more unsettled year."

The board wants the Government and local management to reduce overcrowding and increase training opportunities, improve facilities for elderly and disabled inmates, reduce healthcare waiting times and improve communications.

"The governor was not happy about some of the communication things in the report," Mrs Boothman said. "He holds his hands up on the elderly and infirm issues and the lack of meaningful training."

A spokesman for the Ministry of Justice said Ministers were considering the report and would respond in due course. Littlehey governor Danny Spencer could not be reached for comment yesterday (Tuesday).

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