GANGS, increasing levels of violence, staff shortages and an ongoing problem with drugs have all been raised as concerns at one County Durham prison.

That's after the prison watchdog Independent Monitoring Board (IMB) released its latest report for HMPYOI Deerbolt, near Barnard Castle.

In its report, which was released on Monday, January 22, the board said it believed prisoners were treated fairly but was "concerned about the prisoners who spend the majority of their time on the accommodation wings due to a lack of provision of suitable activity".

Board members said the lack of activity did not prepare prisoners for release while they were also concerned at the lack of programmes available for sex offenders.

The board called on the government to tackle issues with violence across all prisons and said the levels of violence at Deerbolt had increased in the last six months of the reporting period between October 2017 and September 2018.

The report stated that the problem was "exacerbated by the fact that most new recruits are very young" and lacked "valuable life experience and skills" older people might have while activities that were planned were often cancelled because of staff shortages, sickness and holidays.

Gang rivalries are also a problem as prisoners are sent from across the country and despite officers now wearing body cameras, the levels of violence and bullying continues to rise.

The report said an increase in mobile phones and drugs entering the prison had particularly contributed to gangs forming and staff had been assaulted, with many of them feeling under pressure and "exposed to potential threats of violence".

It also praised the staff for their efforts, particularly those in the segregation unit who "appear to work under unacceptable pressure".

The report noted that cells were fir for habitation but said work to fit new cell windows was now classed as "urgent" to reduce the number of drugs entering the prison.

However, the report also noted improvements such as a no-smoking policy being introduced, a new academy system to help prisoners learn and the addition of suitable medical treatment rooms on all accommodation wings. Black History week and LGBT month were also recognised through a calendar of events.

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