CLAIMS that Bullingdon prison has not followed the Government’s coronavirus guidelines have been dismissed by the Independent Monitoring Board (IMB).

The IMB consists of volunteers who visit jails in England and Wales regularly to ensure they all follow the procedures that they should and that prisoners are treated with ‘decency and respect’.

Victoria Talbot, Chair of the IMB visited HMP Bullingdon, near Bicester last Wednesday for nine hours where she was able to see what the conditions were like.

She dismissed claims that the prison was not following the Government’s coronavirus guidelines and was in fact working hard to follow rules.

She said statements that social distancing was not being enforced at the prison were not true, as she saw that steps were in place to ensure as much social distancing as possible.

Ms Talbot said: “Officers, staff and prisoners collectively take steps to practice social distancing wherever possible, but it cannot always be achieved if the prison is to continue to function.

“Prisoners collect meals, take exercise and engage in other permitted activities in much smaller groups than they usually would and more officers have been assigned to oversee these activities than would normally be the case.

“Two metre social distancing markers are in evidence throughout the prison.”

Despite claims that staff were not being given PPE, the IMB say this was not the case.

Ms Talbot continued: “The prison has sufficient quantities of soap and cleaning products for their needs. There is enough PPE available and clear instructions have been issued to officers to use PPE in accordance with the guidelines set down by the NHS.

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“Prisoners are not using communal areas such as the gym or the chapel. The gym’s changing rooms and showers are currently being used solely by Healthcare staff at the end of their duties.”

There is also a designated wing in the jail that is only for any prisoner who is thought to be symptomatic as well as newly arrived prisoners who must isolate for 14 days.

Ms Talbot added: “To date and as a measure of the successful implementation of the prison’s isolation procedures, there have been no confirmed cases of any prisoner suffering from the Covid-19 virus.

“This is quite some achievement as there are approximately 1,050 prisoners currently at HMP Bullingdon.”

The Board also found that prisoners are spending more time in their cells and can contact family and friends through in-cell telephones, the cost of which has been ‘substantially’ reduced.

The number of TV channels they can access has increased and the prison has introduced additional in-cell activities.

Ms Talbot said: “As a board, we believe the staff and officers have responded effectively and well to the difficult circumstances that they face and should be applauded for their efforts.”