PRISONERS were kept in cells for up to 23 hours a day for a second year in a row to stop the spread of Covid-19, a report has revealed.

It was the second year in a row these measures were put in place and was “successful” in containing the virus, but had an “extremely detrimental” impact on inmates at HMP Lewes in Brighton Road, Lewes.

For at least two months of last year, prisoners were unlocked for just 30 minutes a day.

The Argus previously reported that prisoners were not humanely treated during the first year of the pandemic due to being locked in their cells for up to 23 hours a day, the report from 2020 to 2021 showed.

The latest Independent Monitoring Board (IMB) also noted that prisoner-on-prisoner violence averaged at around 12 incidents a month, a 12 per cent increase on last year.

The Argus: HMP Lewes held 568 prisoners in January 2022HMP Lewes held 568 prisoners in January 2022

The Ministry of Justice said its actions during the pandemic have led to fewer Covid-related deaths across the country, 159 compared to 2,700 predicted by Public Health England.

The report stated: “At various times during this year, prisoners have only been unlocked from their cells for half an hour a day and the ‘best’ regime offered has been very far from ideal.

“As stated last year, we cannot know what the long-term impact on prisoners’ physical and mental welfare will be of being kept in cells for such long periods.”

The Argus: A single cell at HMP LewesA single cell at HMP Lewes

The report said that senior management at the prison have been “severely restricted” in being able to offer prisoners a regime during the pandemic.

“However, we do not consider that the regime during this year has been humane”, it added.

The IMB is aware of new challenges the prison faces in terms of staff recruitment and retention.

Peter Scaramanga, chairman of the IMB at Lewes, said: “This was another very difficult year and we commend prison staff for keeping prisoners safe as well as fully informed during the pandemic.

“We can see the prison management is now facing new challenges including those of staff recruitment and retention. We sincerely hope prisoners are able to spend more time out of cell, in education and work, enabling them to use their time productively in preparation for release.”

The prison was described as “grubby and often seemingly uncleanable” in the past, but this year there was an improvement with the refurbishment of cells in most of the older residential wings.

The Argus: HMP Lewes was built in 1853HMP Lewes was built in 1853

This also gave inmates the chance of employment and being out of their cells.

The report also noted that none of the prisoner toilets have lids which “means that all meals are eaten within feet of an open toilet, or indeed sitting on it, which is neither decent nor humane”.

The delivery of physical and mental health services deteriorated between February 2021 to January 31 this year, the timeframe for the report.

The Argus: Inside Lewes PrisonInside Lewes Prison

It also noted the work of the chaplaincy team which plays an “important role” in the wellbeing of prisoners.

A Ministry of Justice spokesman said: “Our actions during the pandemic kept staff and prisoners safe, and we are pleased the report recognised efforts from HMP Lewes staff to keep the prison running despite its impact.

“As restrictions have been lifted prisoners have spent more time out of cells and services are being restored as soon as it is safe to do so.”