INMATES at HMP Usk were handed more than 20 extra punishments in just three months after breaking rules, figures show.

Drastically curtailed prison regimes, cell confinements and other restrictions contributed to a national drop in adjudications – hearings which take place when a prisoner is accused of rule-breaking – during the coronavirus pandemic, experts say.

Ministry of Justice data shows 15 adjudications were recorded concerning possible rule breaches at HMP Usk between January and March, down from 37 during the same period in 2020.

Of those, nine (60 per cent) resulted in a guilty verdict.

Adjudicators can punish inmates with a range of disciplinary measures, from adding days to their sentences to stopping earnings and taking away their privileges.

Separate figures show punishments recorded in that quarter included five cases involving violence, 11 linked to disobedience and five concerning unauthorised transactions, which could involve drugs or alcohol.

Unruly convicts at HMP Usk, some of whom may have received more than one punishment at an adjudication, were handed a total of 21 punishments between January and March, with the most common being the forfeiture of privileges.

Frances Crook, chief executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform, said additional days could pile pressure on the prison population and worsen overcrowding, rather than solve problems.

She added: "The prison system has been hugely impacted by the coronavirus pandemic, with institutions running drastically curtailed regimes that keep prisoners isolated in their cells for the vast majority of the day.

"These draconian restrictions have impacted on adjudications and the imposition of additional days of imprisonment."

The Prison Service said social distancing and reduced contact time between prisoners and staff throughout the pandemic resulted in less indiscipline, adjudication and related punishments.

A spokesperson added: “Our essential measures to save lives and limit the spread of the virus in our prisons led to fewer adjudications during the pandemic.”

The number of referrals for adjudications fell far below the level of previous years due to the suspension of disciplinary hearings requiring independent adjudicators between March and June 2020.