Close Supervision Centres

Some time ago I was asked to explain Prison Rule 46 (which regards Close Supervision Centres). I’d never lived on one as such (though I have passed through the one here whilst in segregation (which is part of the same unit) so I thought I’d research it properly before posting this response.

The problem I hit up against is that Prison Rule 46 simply sets out that “Where it is desirable, for the maintenance of good order or discipline or to ensure the safety of officers, prisoners or any other person that a prisoner should not associate with other prisoners, either generally or for particular purposes, the Secretary of State may direct the prisoner’s removal from association accordingly and his placement in a close supervision centre of a prison.” It does go on to set out that this should be reviewed monthly but any such removal would remain in place if the prisoner is transferred. The Secretary of State should also take account of medical considerations and can direct the end of that removal at any time. The definition of a close supervision centre is then given as “any cell or other part of a prison designated by the Secretary of State for holding prisoners who are subject to a direction given” under this rule. However, to my knowledge it is only high security prisons which have close supervision cells, and there are just two or three actual units designated as close supervision centres in all of England and Wales.

Usually I would follow up reading a rule like this by consulting the relevant Prison Service Order or Instruction which sets out how the rule should be implemented logistically. However, in this case I can’t find a dedicated PSO or PSI for Close Supervision Centres at all. In fact, the only further information I could find is a general standards document for Close Supervision Centres.

This sets out that when a prisoner is being considered for admission to a Close Supervision Centre, (CSC) the CSC Selection Committee should assess the selection criteria. These are that the prisoner must have been violent to staff or other prisoners, regularly incurred disciplinary reports, caused serious damage to property, and shown dangerous behaviour (eg hostage taking.)

As well as the prisoners removal being reviewed monthly, the prisoner must receive monthly reports summarising the information on which the decision is made as well as decision letters. The reviews must include representations from prison officers, psychology, probation, healthcare, psychiatry, and education. There must be avenues for progression that prisoners are encouraged to take.

The routine of the CSC and any entitlements must be on display. This includes the entitlement of a shower at least once every three days and exercise in the fresh air every day as well as the ability to keep in contact with family and friends. It should also provide for education, library, visits, telephone calls, and where a risk assessment allows, a level of association, creative activities, and cell hobbies. Prisoners must have access to an operational manager, chaplain, and doctor by application.

CSC prisoners must be managed with respect for their human dignity and there is a published staff selection policy setting out the criteria for selection and length of posting, but in all my efforts I have been unable to find a copy of this. However, staff training for CSCs must include interpersonal skills, understanding personality disorder and mental health needs, and de-escalation techniques as well as training about the CSC system and control and restraint.

Special cells (such as padded cells etc) and restraints (such as body belts) should be in accordance with the Use of Force manual “where operationally possible”. But it is unclear what this means. Examples of excuses of why things were not “operationally possible” to me before have included being short staffed. Presumably this would mean that being short staffed would mean it is not operationally possible to get authorisation to use special cells and restraints for excessive periods of time, so they simply don’t have to bother. Similar provision is made to the handling of prisoners on dirty protest, potentially leaving prisoners covered in faeces for days.

Other than that, there is no specific information about how one is required to run at all. However, having seen the CSC unit here I can say that prisoners on the unit do indeed get a shower every three days. They can obtain books from the library by application, but this means that you either have to know the details of the book you want to read or simply put down a subject and get pot luck. There is also a small gym underground. This doesn’t include any free weights but does include a treadmill and some weights machines It is located underground in a cage measuring approximately ten foot by twenty foot and only one prisoner is allowed in it at a time. Prisoners get exercise in the fresh air every day, on one of four yards each measuring around twenty foot square. Three of these yards have benches, and two have dip bars for exercise. The yard you are placed on depends on the choice of the officer on nights and can result in personal grudges meaning you find yourself on the yard with nothing in it.

The cells are very similar to-normal cells except that all of the furniture is bolted down and the door is slightly different. The walls are quite thick so, instead of having a single door flush with the interior of the wall, this main door is flush with the exterior and a cage door is fitted too, flush with the interior. This allows staff to open the exterior door and observe the prisoner inside at less risk. It also allows them to pass things in and out without opening the interior door.

Other than exercise, gym, showers, and visits if you have them, there is no time out of cell at all. The visits are conducted not in the visits hall with other prisoners but in a small dedicated room underground beneath the CSC cells and next to the CSC gym. In fact, it is actually two small rooms with a barred hole in the wall so that the visitor can sit on one side with the prisoner on the other. This is meant to be some of the strictest visits security there is but there is no officer in either room and nothing to stop the prisoner and his visitor reaching through the bars. A friend of mine had a visit in this room which, if I could put it this way, could easily have led to pregnancy. For his visitor of course. He did have a little paunch but I don’t think it was a baby bump.

I have to say though, I am very dissatisfied with the amount I’ve managed to find out about the rules surrounding CSCs. It seems conspicuously ambiguous. I do have an inkling that there is more information out there and I will try what I can to get hold of it, but for now, this is all I know about them. The request for an explanation of this was sent anonymously so I don’t know who it was that particularly wanted to know about CSCs, but if there is anything else that any of you specifically would like to know about CSCs please feel free to send through a question and I’ll do my best to find out the answer if I don’t already know.

4 thoughts on “Close Supervision Centres

  1. In my time, if I remember correctly, it was Section 4?a/b. The first was applied to those guilty of an offence against Prison Rules. The second was applied if the Governor thought the Con was a threat to *the good order of the Prison*. Obviously, the second could be even more arbitrary than the first. The conditions were medieval (or plain evil). I was informed by Mr Xmas ( I kid you not) that I was to be *broken mentally* not physically. Ordinarily, Mr Xmas was a fairly decent Officer but maybe he was just following orders.
    You don’t mention the cold so, presumably, CSCs, the Block, Solitary or whatever are heated now? Only time I wore pyjamas (under my regular clothes) was during my time there. The daily Governor stopped me cleaning my pad three times a day stating that *We understand why you do it*. Eventually, I was granted a privilege-an A-Level Maths paper from my property. Happy days!

  2. The Block and CSC units are indeed now heated…in theory. That is to say that there are facilities to heat them. However, each cell (here at Wakefield at least) can have their heating individually turned off and when I was last in the block in 2014 it was 10 days before I was given clothes that fit, a blanket, or any heating. Add to that the fact that the windows didn’t close properly and I was frozen.

    • I was once on remand in Prison X and, as there were no windows, I stuffed my blanket in the gap in an attempt to mitigate the freezing north wind. Soon, the door opened and my blanket was summarily confiscated and not replaced. Lesson learned!

      At the minute, I have on a fleece, HH tech T-shirt, hiking trousers and two pairs of socks. I am in a cafe and when I leave I will put on my Goretex jacket and woollen Peruvian hat.

      I have a 15tog duvet on my bed and I still get dressed to go to bed. The socks stay on with tracky top and Troll climbing trousers. I still have cupboard full of mountaineering clothes, sleeping bags and tents that I rarely use these days.

      I have a fear of the cold and still have nasty dreams caused by rough sleeping in the terrible Winter of 1963-64. Whoever said that there is no bad weather only wrong clothing was right but I still prefer to be in front of a fire, nice and toasty and with a cup of tea. If I had someone next to me in bed, I might take my tracky top off. Brigid Bardot is supposed to have said that Englishmen (she meant Lawrence Harvey) make love with their socks on. She lives in the south of France, what does she know about surviving the cold!

      • Withholding heat (or imposing it) is used as a very effective weapon by some officers. The origin of the term ‘sweat box’ to refer to the secure vans prisoners are taken to and from court in whilst on trial comes in part from the fact that some screws like to turn the heat right up (especially on the day you are due to give evidence) in order to make you irritable. Conversely, if they want you to be lethargic they turn it right down. I was warned about this before going to court and made sure I was wearing warm clothes which would be easy to pull off even in handcuffs if I got too hot.

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