“Extremely filthy” toilets, cockroaches and legal highs increase noted in Lincoln prison report

A report into Lincoln prison has highlighted an increase in prisoners’ use of legal highs, delays in mental health transfers and an increase in vermin like rats and cockroaches.

The report by the Independent Monitoring Board (IMB) to the Ministry of Defence refers to the period between February 1, 2015 and January 31, 2016 and was published on Wednesday, May 18.

The board noted challenges facing the prison such as the number of prison officer vacancies and increase in New Psychoactive Substances, known as ‘legal highs’.

Key issues in the report were:

  • The increase in rats and cockroaches, particularly near the kitchen
  • The high level of self-harm
  • The high use of New Psychoactive Substances (NPS), also known as legal highs
  • The delay in transferring prisoners with mental health problems to an appropriate health facility
  • Continuing failures of the heating system in the Care and Separation Unit
  • Concerns with the application and complaints system
  • Welded cell windows on one wing of the building
  • Prisoners on E wing not being permitted their full amount of exercise
  • The infrequent staffing of the Observation, Classification and Allocation (OCA) desk
  • The poor hygiene standards of the toilets and recessed areas on the wings
  • The lack of CCTV on E wing

Many problems highlighted in the previous year’s report had been addressed, however concerns remained surrounding the lack of facilities for prisoners with a physical disability.

When describing the cleanliness of the facility, IMB noted the toilets were “extremely filthy”, identifying the issue as a priority for action.

The report stated:

Outside areas were constantly dirty due to items thrown out of the windows by prisoners which in turn, led to a problem with rats and other pests particularly near the kitchen.

“The establishment made concerted efforts to contain this problem with little success, despite daily cleaning of outside areas and regular visits by pest control experts.”

Concerns remained over the high level of legal highs use, with the issue presenting further challenges in terms of health care. The prison established a drug strategy group and have been working with Addaction to increase awareness and report action.

Despite areas of concern, IMB said the prison continued to show improvements, such as the opening of the ‘First Night Centre’, the development of the Departure Lounge and the opening of a drug recovery unit, (Transform), in association with Addaction.

More prisoners were making the most of work available with the number of workspaces rising from 324 to 454

The Boards Chair, David Libiszewski said: “2015 was another challenging year for HMP Lincoln due to the number of prison officer vacancies, the impact of a new split regime on both wing staff and prisoners, and an increased use of psychoactive substances, also known as legal highs.

“Despite this however the prison continued to demonstrate an improved performance in a number of areas.

“Within the report the board has identified a number of concerns primarily relating to inadequate or variable standards of care”

The Victorian Prison is a Category B Local Prison serving the courts of Lincolnshire. It holds remand and convicted adult/young adult male prisoners.

The average number of prisoners over the reporting period was 608 which is 83.4% of the operational capacity.

A Prison Service spokesperson said: “We are pleased that the Independent Monitoring Board recognised ongoing improvements at HMP Lincoln, including the opening of a drug recovery centre and education services.

“We have also made it illegal to smuggle new psychoactive substances into prison and those caught trying to throw packages over prison walls face up to two years in jail.

“But as the Prime Minister and Justice Secretary have said, our prisons are in need of reform.

“That is why we are investing £1.3 billion to transform the prison estate over the next five years, to better support rehabilitation and tackle bullying, violence and drugs.”

They also stated action has been taken to improve hygiene at HMP Lincoln. The issue with rats is under control and the prison is said to be addressing other pests.