Prison regime slowly and cautiously being reintroduced to Serco Prisons

After the start of the lockdown in the UK in March 2020, prison regimes across the UK changed dramatically with prisoners spending longer hours in their cells in order to minimise the risk of contracting Covid-19.  

July 2020 saw all the UK prisons managed by Serco announce that social visits were being reintroduced into the prison regime. This marked the end of four months when prisoners were unable to see visiting family and friends.  

Social visits play a significant role in the lives of prisoners and their families and friends as it reinforces external support networks.  Maintaining external support is a key pillar in reducing the likelihood of an individual reoffending on release.  

All prison visitor centres have had safety measures put in place in order to adhere to social distancing. Visitor numbers were reduced, along with having only family members from the same household being allowed to visit.  

In the following months after the reintroduction of social visits, other areas of the prison regime were being reintroduced. One of the most notable elements of the regime to have returned were gym sessions. 

Gyms are an important space for the wellbeing of prisoners. They help reduce stress and keep the prisoners physically healthy through exercise. However, given the inherent risks associated with people using gyms. PE departments have had to innovate and have moved all the gym sessions outside, where there is greater space and distance between participants. Equipment such as exercise bikes, kettlebells and barbells have been sectioned off into individual workout stations and prisoners take turns switching stations with equipment being cleaned between rotations.  

Even though Prison Industries saw some activity during lockdown such as the production of medical scrubs at both HMPs Lowdham Grange and Kilmarnock, many prisoner jobs were paused during lockdown. Now various prison industries and jobs are returning, but with smaller numbers and shift rotations in order to make it easier for working prisoners to socially distance. This has been done at HMP Dovegate’s laundry and electronics workshop whilst at HMP Ashfield prisoners are able to return to industrial cleaning shifts and light industries.  

Before prisons can reintroduce any element of the regime back into the establishment, they must complete an Exceptional Delivery Model (EDM). An EDM is a risk assessment process that needs to meet the approval of the prison’s Director, NHS England, HMPPS and the MOJ before it can be implemented.