In its annual report, New Hall prison’s Independent Monitoring Board highlighted a number of positive developments, including refurbishments to wards and an ‘outstanding’ rating from Ofsted for its education programme.
New Hall, which can accommodate up to 415 inmates, is the only closed prison in the country to have achieved the watchdog’s highest rating.
The board said there was generally a good atmosphere and the women’s prison near Wakefield was well managed.
It was also pleased to note that the prison was given the second highest rating – level three – at its latest unannounced inspection by HM Inspectorate of Prisons in August 2015.
But it issued a note of caution about the progress being made.
The board said: “There is some excellent work ongoing within New Hall but there are concerns that some of this work will be undone by continuing budget constraints and associated matters including staffing, security, education, industries, and health and well-being.”
It said improvements were being made to address high sickness levels among staff, but more needed to be done.
Prison security also remained a problem, particularly in relation to drugs, and reports of prisoners’ personal property going missing was noted as another area for improvement.
The board found the number of escort details being cancelled was also an issue.
“This problem is not just a New Hall problem but a problem both regionally and nationally,” it said.
However, the total number of complaints made to the board by prisoners fell from 253 in 2014/15 to 236 in 2015/16.