The latest official monthly statistics1 show a sharp increase of 65% in Covid-19 infections in prisons across the country, and a 51% rise in deaths related to the disease. Leading social justice charity Nacro is calling on the government to ensure that all staff working in prisons are treated as a priority for vaccination.
In December 2020, official statistics show a 65% rise in cases, with 2,357 new cases, bringing the total among prison and Youth Custody Service (YCS) to 6,007. Deaths among prison, YCS and probation services users related to Covid-19 rose by 38% or 27 deaths.
Just in prison, related deaths rose by 51% or 24, bringing the total to 71.
People in prison are at high risk from COVID-19 because of the prevalence of underlying chronic health conditions and the living environment, which can make social distancing and other preventive measures more difficult. We know that prisons are high-risk settings for the transmission of contagious diseases.
Prison workers have not been included in guidance from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and People.
Added to the stress of extended isolation for many prisoners, staff absence due to illness or the need to self-isolate is significantly straining already stretched resources. And that strain often continues after release, as support workers try to find housing for the hundreds of people who leave prison every month, in the middle of lockdown, without a home to go to.
Nacro calls on government to:
Ensure that all staff working within prisons are now treated as a priority for COVID-19 vaccination.
Reinstate the early release scheme with a wider remit to reduce the number of people in prison and help slow the spread of the virus.
Reinstate the funding to ensure everyone leaving prison has somewhere to stay.
Campbell Robb, chief executive at Nacro, said: “The situation in our prisons is now a major cause for concern. With the added burden of increased isolation for people in prison, and staff stretched to the limit, it’s high time that this sector is prioritised for vaccination as soon as possible.
“Every effort should be made to stop overcrowding across the prison estate in order to reduce the risk of transmission.”
Miriam Khan, a Nacro Resettlement Advisor working in prison, said: “Social distancing is rarely possible in prison, especially when dealing with incidents and vulnerable individuals. And just as in the general population, some prisoners and workers are more vulnerable to Covid-19. A vaccination will provide a safety net for prison staff.”
For further information please contact Clare Harkey firstname.lastname@example.org_ or 0207 902 5443.
1/ Official monthly statistics: https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/hm-prison-and-probation-service-covid-19-statistics-monthly
Find out more about Nacro’s work in Justice at https://www.nacro.org.uk/justice/