East Riding Council’s safer and stronger communities overview and scrutiny sub-committee heard both HMP Humber and HMP Full Sutton were currently in stage three of prison coronavirus restrictions.
HMP Humber Governor Marcella Goligher and HMP Full Sutton Deputy Governor Aidy Jones told councillors restrictions would stay beyond Monday, July 19 because prisons are deemed “high risk” infection environments.
Ms Goligher also told the committee the pandemic had seen HMP Humber’s Ready for Release programme shelved while Mr Jones said staff training and recruitment also stalled at first.
It comes as councillors heard the prison service was currently drawing up a reform programme which would include looking at keeping lower violence and self-harming rates seen during the pandemic.
Mr Jones told councillors the prison service nationally had also mounted a recruitment drive to take on 2,000 new officers.
Ms Goligher said the prison population was now expected to grow as sites return to normal capacity levels.
Mr Jones said the number of inmates nationally had fallen from 83,000 two years ago to around 78,000 currently, in large part due to the pandemic.
The committee heard HMP Humber had two major outbreaks and HMP Full Sutton had three during the pandemic.
Councillors also heard current levels of restrictions meant the only workshops and programmes open for inmates were those needed to keep prisons running such as kitchen work or waste management.
Visits for inmates in both prisons are now available and each prisoner can take showers and exercise for one and half hours a day.
Gyms are also open but inmates are currently in bubbles which are unable to mix and can only go out of cells one at a time.
Ms Goligher said her prison had applied to move to the more relaxed Stage Two of recovery while Mr Jones said HMP Full Sutton was on track to move from stage three already.
HMP Humber’s governor said: “The impact of coronavirus has been significant for us in the last 16 months. Our management of outbreaks has been recognised by local Outbreak Control Teams and Public Health England.
“During coronavirus prisoners have been subject to a very limited regime, with minimal time out of cells. Staff and prisoners are required to follow coronavirus safe restrictions including wearing masks and social distancing.
“We won’t be in a position to lift restrictions in HMP Humber after July 19, we’re currently at Stage Three of our recovery and we’re applying to move to stage two. We expect to see an increase in the prison population in the coming months.
“There’s a backlog in court cases but we’re now in a position to start increasing our population. We saw significant reductions during the pandemic but we’re now going back to operational capacity.
“We’re hoping to get our Ready for Release plan back up and running after it stopped because of coronavirus.”
Mr Jones said HMP Full Sutton had recently taken on 76 new staff, with most of them now on active duty and 19 still in training.
HMP Full Sutton’s deputy governor said: “Full Sutton is quite different to Humber, we take inmates with sentences of 20 years or more so we hold on to them for a significant amount of time.
“We now only have about two staff isolating because of coronavirus, but when we went into lockdown last March group training programmes were suspended, they restarted this year.
“The pandemic didn’t stop the recruitment of officers but training slowed down significantly, we’re back to full motion now.”