THE LATEST report on services at HMP Usk and Prescoed has highlighted a damaging “shortfall” in probation officers.

The report from the Independent Monitoring Boards runs from April 1, 2022, to March 31, 2023.

HMP Usk, a category C men's prison, now houses vulnerable prisoners – the majority of whom are convicted of sexual offences. Still under Covid restrictions for part of the reporting period, its operational capacity fell to an average of 220 from the standard 278.

HMP Prescoed, a category D open prison just outside Usk, aims to enable prisoners to re-integrate into the community before release with agricultural and rail work taking place at Cilwrgi Farm Training Centre.

Prisoner-on-prisoner assault and self-harm levels were low and prisoners told the board they felt safe. The board also noted “positive” and “productive” relationships between prisoners and staff.

The report cites four incidents involving “use of force” at Usk and two at Prescoed which involved escorting prisoners from their units to reception on ratchet handcuffs. Pepper spray has never been used at either site.

At the time of the last report, the board was concerned with an "inadequate" number of Probation Officers, with HMP Usk working with two vacancies. This has remained an issue throughout the year.

The report says: “The prison remains short of Probation Officers and has been for the whole of the reporting period.

“The Governor engages frequently with the probation teams to seek a resolution to the staffing shortfall and is mindful of the impact of the increased workload on the remaining staff.

“Despite this, and recognising the national shortage, it remains the Board’s view that more Probation Officers are needed.”

There was a 43 per cent increase in prisoner complaints during 2022/23 – up to 689 from 483. 75 of the complaints during this period relate to one prisoner.