11 September 2023
Over the last few years the Island’s prisoner population has steadily increased, recently peaking at 25 individuals. This increase has presented HM Prison and Offender Management Service with unique challenges. However, the community should be reassured that the service has been diligently planning for this situation, actively bidding for additional resources and developing comprehensive solutions to bridge the gap until the Island’s new prison facility becomes operational in the next few years. Other areas of St Helena Government (SHG) have been supportive, redeploying additional resources to assist in addressing and mitigating the associated risks.
Proactive Planning for Safety
In our ongoing commitment to maintaining the safety and well-being of our Island community, we have been closely monitoring and forecasting an increase in the prisoner population. This foresight has allowed us to plan ahead and put contingencies in place to address the situation.
Utilising Police Custody Cells
As part of our proactive strategy, we have initiated efforts to secure additional resources. One such measure is the potential utilisation of police custody cells at Police HQ Coleman House to temporarily house some prisoners. Coleman House is a new facility, with modern amenities. Whilst this has not yet needed to be activated, if deployed this approach will ensure that we can maintain humane and secure conditions, even if the number of prisoners rises further.
Collaboration for Success: Support from Fellow Overseas Territories
We have also sought support from our fellow Overseas Territories by calling upon highly experienced prison officers who can deploy to St Helena at short-notice for a fixed-term period. If deployed, this collaborative endeavour will play a pivotal role in supervising and caring for the growing number of prisoners, making the operation of two prison facilities feasible and safe, both for the general population and prisoners themselves.
Expansion of HMP Jamestown – Additional Accommodation
A tender request was recently issued for the expansion of accommodation facilities in HMP Jamestown. This initiative will see the conversion of HMP Jamestown’s prisoner workshop into additional accommodation, alleviating the pressure caused by the recent increase in prisoners. Whilst these measures will help in the short to medium-term, the long-term aim is to progress and complete the new prison project in Bottoms Wood. This state of the art facility is designed to meet the Island’s long-term custodial needs and is scheduled to be operational by 2026/7.
In addition to these efforts, HM Prison and Offender Management Service have maintained regular consultation with His Excellency the Governor, who is responsible for Island security, as well as the Safety, Security and Home Affairs Portfolio Director, Chief Secretary, Chief of Police, Government Ministers, prisoners and other key stakeholders. These collaborative discussions have allowed appropriate evaluation of all available options to navigate the current prisoner population challenges.
Improving Conditions and Training
Whilst we acknowledge the unique challenges that this increase in prisoner population presents, we remain confident in our ability to maintain operational effectiveness and resilience within HMP Jamestown, a prison which has served our small Island community and prisoner population well over the years. We have already achieved significant improvements, such as enhancing the conditions of our female unit, increasing prisoner education provisions, and delivering extensive training to the Prison Officer Team, all of which have yielded clear benefits. On top of that we have invested in new and improved prisoner and officer uniforms, along with PPE, to enhance safety and overall conditions.
Gratitude and Unity
HM Prisoner and Offender Management Service express heartfelt thanks to all who live, work and visit the prison for playing their part in maintaining the safety and security of our community and prison population.
We have diligently worked towards achieving key milestones from our Five-Year Strategic Development Plan, which includes the construction of the new facility, a full tender pack for which will be released shortly. Our recent inspection by the Overseas Territories Prison Advisor (OTPA) reaffirmed the need for a fit-for-purpose prison and underscored the progress we have made. The OTPA also recognised the pivotal role played by the current management, leadership and the excellent staff-prisoner relationships in the success of HMP Jamestown.
Community Engagement: PVC and Questions
The Prison Visiting Committee (PVC) remains committed to their role, ensuring high standards of welfare and treatment of prisoners. HM Prison and Offender Management Service remain committed to providing regular updates to the public, where and when possible.
If you have any questions, concerns, or suggestions, in the meantime then please do not hesitate to contact Superintendent Jay Kendall directly through email@example.com.
As we face this temporary surge in our prisoner population, St Helena stands united. Our proactive approach and collective resolve will see us through this period of adjustment, ensuring safety, security and justice for our community.
11 September 2023