'Dozens' of inmates test positive for coronavirus at Preston prison

Positive results for Covid-19 tests taken by inmates at HMP Preston are in 'double figures', with staff and prisoners forced to isolate 'in the dozens' the Post understands.

Tuesday, 3rd November 2020, 3:40 pm
There have been 'double figures' of inmates testing positive for Covid-19 at HMP Preston

The news comes after HMP Preston was branded as 'severely overcrowded' and virtually impossible to facilitate social distancing in a recent report.

Currently, nearly all prisoners are receiving a restricted regime, with most still locked up for 22.5 hours a day, usually in shared cells not designed to hold more than one prisoner reliably.

Prisoners who are symptomatic or Covid positive are allowed out of their cells for only 15 minutes a week for a shower - something officials have branded "unacceptable" and "wholly avoidable".

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HMP Preston, on Ribbleton Lane

The Post can now exclusively confirm that, although exact figures have not been provided, positive cases of Covid-19 found affecting inmates has now grown to 'double figures'.

And 'dozens' of staff and prisoners have been told to self-isolate due to an outbreak in the prison, although nobody has yet required hospital treatment.

HM Prison and Probation Service (HMPPS) had classed the prison as a COVID-19 outbreak site until July 10.

A scrutiny report had been carried out by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons - an independent, statutory organisation which reports on the treatment and conditions of those detained in prisons.

In the report, HM Chief Inspector of Prisons, Peter Clarke, said some of the accommodation was deteriorating or "barely fit for purpose".

A mum of an inmate, at the Ribbleton Lane jail facility, who has asked to remain anonymous, criticised the management of the virus, claiming that the prison staff have a duty of care over their inmates.

She also questioned how positive cases of Covid-19 could be allowed to leak into the prison.

She said: "The prisoners are confined to their cells for days.

"My son is now on his own as he felt unwell and asked to be tested before they put another guy in with him. In my opinion, all prisoners should be automatically tested upon entry before they are moved to a wing.

"I feel that it is necessary for the public to be made aware of the relaxed measures. The prisoners have had no control over who they have mixed with and weren’t issued with masks or segregated.

"Even though they are prisoners they still have human rights. The fact is that they weren’t issued with PPE and weren’t segregated so they couldn’t function in a safe socially distanced environment."

The official government guidance for safety in prisons fails to identify whether staff are required to wear face masks in a bid to keep prisoners safe.

It does say however, that 'prisons are working with public health and NHS services and continue to prioritise the safety of staff, prisoners and visitors'.

It also states that handwashing facilities are available to prisoners, staff and visitors to curb the spread of the virus.

A Prison Service spokesperson said: “We have robust and flexible plans in place to keep prisoners, staff and the wider public safe based on the latest advice from Public Health England.”

HMP Preston confirmed that they are continuously working with public health experts to ensure the safety of prisoners, staff and the public and continuing to follow PHE advice.

According to the latest national figures, taken in September, 630 prisoners or children have tested positive for COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic, across 89 establishments.

The number of new monthly confirmed cases has increased by 80 from August to September.

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