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IMB 2023 Annual Report highlights national concerns

The Independent Monitoring Board published its National Annual Report for 2023 on 22 May, detailing the findings from over 37,700 visits carried out by 132 individual Boards across England and Wales. The report details how material, financial and staffing challenges have impacted people deprived of their liberty in prisons, Youth Offender Institutions and in immigration detention over the year, and reflects widespread concerns about safety in all settings.

IMB National Chair, Elisabeth Davies has emphasised,

“Over recent years, IMBs’ concerns have often gone unaddressed, with Boards having to pose the same questions to ministers again and again. ”

In prisons, population pressures and overcrowding has strained every area of prison life, compounded by widespread staff shortages. Despite modest improvements in some establishments, shortfalls in regime have resulted in inadequate purposeful activity and too little time out of cell. A physical state of disrepair has meant some detained people were living in an unacceptable environment, with some conditions described by Boards as inhumane and without access to basic sanitation.

In Youth Offender Institutions, IMBs reported concerns that many children and young people experience very little time outside of their rooms, with some spending over 23 hours a day in their room. Staff faced workplace-related stress, sickness and low morale, which exacerbated existing staffing shortages and compounded the lack of regime.

In immigration detention, IMBs noted the increase in the number of people detained in the immigration estate throughout 2023, including those detained for long periods without any realistic prospect of removal from the UK. Detained people were held in inappropriate places – such as controlled waiting areas, escort vehicles and police stations – for too long, partially due to Border Force staffing shortages. Overall, the processes intended to prevent vulnerable people from entering detention, and safeguard them in detention, were ineffective.

The IMB is a member of the UK National Preventive Mechanism, which aims to strengthen the protection of people in detention through independent monitoring. See the full National Annual Report of the IMB for 2023 (opens in a new tab) to read all of the findings.