HMP Eastwood Park, a women’s prison located in South Gloucestershire, has been found to have the highest rate of self-harm among all women’s jails in England and Wales, according to a report by HM Inspectorate of Prisons. The findings were revealed during a review conducted in September, which also raised concerns about the increased use of physical force by staff against women who self-harmed or threatened self-harm. The Ministry of Justice has been approached for comment regarding these findings.
During the inspection, which took place while the prison held 353 prisoners, it was found that while progress had been made in most areas of concern, the use of physical force remained a significant issue. While some situations were effectively de-escalated by staff, instances of using force to manage women in crisis were found to be high, particularly in cases of self-harm or threatened self-harm. Some inmates reported a lack of care and empathy from staff when it came to dealing with self-harm.
Inspectors documented 22 cases over the past eight months where force was used to strip women of their clothing and replace it with anti-rip garments designed to reduce the risk of ligature. Concerns were raised that force was not always utilized as a last resort and that staff acted too quickly without sufficient evidence of persuasion and negotiation. The report also highlighted the failure of healthcare professionals to challenge the use of inappropriate or unsafe techniques.
Many women within the prison expressed frustrations with the handling of basic requests, which often led to self-harm. The report also noted that women who were acutely mentally ill were still being sent to prison instead of being diverted to a care setting, resulting in staff and the mental health team having to support inmates with extremely challenging needs.
Despite the high rate of self-harm, Chief Inspector of Prisons, Charlie Taylor, acknowledged signs of improvement within HMP Eastwood Park. He mentioned improved staffing in residential units, better support for women to maintain contact with their families, and a commitment from managers to enhance the prison’s performance.
In conclusion, HMP Eastwood Park has been identified as having the highest rate of self-harm among women’s prisons in England and Wales. The inspection report highlighted concerns over the use of physical force and a lack of understanding and empathy regarding self-harm. While progress is being made in some areas, there are still challenges to overcome, particularly in terms of appropriately using force and providing support for mentally ill inmates.