Conditions in prisons rapidly deteriorating because of staffing cuts, report finds

Not a single young offenders institution in the country is safe for children

There have been ‘startling increases’ in violence of all kinds in UK prisons thanks to staffing cuts, the chief inspector of prisons has found.

In his annual report, published today, Peter Clarke said conditions had deteriorated across the board: In men’s prisons, women’s prisons, and young offenders institutions.

Assaults on staff were up and 113 prisoners took their own lives in the year to March 2017.

Clarke, a former head of counter-terrorism for the Metropolitan Police, said a list of well-documented problems – including the prevalence of drugs inside prisons, debt, bullying, and isolation – were being compounded by staffing levels “that are simply too low to keep order and at the same time run a decent regime”.

In the space of a year the percentage of adult male prisons judged to be ‘good’ or ‘reasonably good’ fell from 78 per cent to 49 percent.

Young offenders institutions deteriorated the most – with not a single establishment inspected in England or Wales deemed safe to hold children and young people.

Clarke said:

“The fact that we had reached a position where we could not judge any institution to be sufficiently safe was bad enough, but the speed of decline has been staggering. In 2013–14 we found that nine out of 12 institutions were graded as reasonably good or good for safety”.

Clarke described seeing men locked up for 23 hours a day, in shared cells where they were required to eat all their meals beside unscreened toilets.

“On several occasions prisoners have pointed out insect and vermin infestations to me. In many prisons I have seen shower and lavatory facilities that are filthy and dilapidated, but with no credible or affordable plans for refurbishment.”

He said he saw many prisoners with injuries from self harming and many with a learning disability or mental impairment.

Frances Crook, Chief Executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform, said the report proved what her organisation had been saying for year.

“Prisons are out of control. A prisoner dies by suicide every three days. Children are locked up with nothing to do for 23 hours a day. Record levels of violence mean that men are too scared to leave their cells. Women are injuring themselves more and more. Staff fear for their lives. Conditions are filthy. Enough is enough.”

She said prisons for children should be closed, describing the Chief Inspector’s conclusion that a tragedy is inevitable unless action is taken as “one of the starkest warnings we have heard about children in prison.”

She added:

“Chronic overcrowding in adult prisons, together with deep cuts to staffing, has created a toxic mix of death, violence and human misery. But we cannot build our way out of this mess.
“Building more prisons only causes problems to grow; it does not solve them. Bold but sensible action to reduce the prison population would prevent more people being swept into deeper currents of crime, violence and despair.”

Charlotte England is a freelance journalist. Follow her on Twitter.

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4 Responses to “Conditions in prisons rapidly deteriorating because of staffing cuts, report finds”

  1. Blade Runner

    If you do the crime then you do the time. If you are stupid enough to commit an illegal or unlawful act then it’s your own problem. If you don’t agree with UK Laws then you are free to move elsewhere.

    The way we can cut prison suicides, drugs being passed in jail and bullying is for every single prisoner to be in solitary confinement in their own locked cell. Meals should be brought to them at their door. Each prisoner should be always supervised by a guard outside their cell and when they are showering a guard should be stood outside the door.

    If they feel lonely? TOUGH LUCK. You are in prison. You decided to break the law. You decided to put your friendships and family life in jeopardy. They should be glad tax payers and the Government are generous enough to keep them in prison and not send them to the tortures and death in Eastern countries. There are far worse punishments to be had!

  2. Craig Mackay

    Blade Runner simply isn’t working out the sums. The costs of what he proposes would be astronomical not to mention completely hopeless in terms of trying to get prisoners back into the community.

    The key thing that must be done is to reduce substantially the prison population. There are far too many people in prison for short periods of time which will not do anything to help them return to society. We have the highest rate of incarceration of almost any Western country outside the US. There are many things that can be done and some are detailed here:

  3. patrick newman

    There is a good reason why Blade Runner does not use his real name – he is a neo Fascist idiot with views that would even embarrass red neck Tories (possibly not the Daily Mail!).
    This is austerity Britain and like all public services continuing cuts have not only resulted in multiple crises but generated many collateral costs – both in fiscal and in social terms. You only have to look at the comparitive data to see that for advanced countries (excluding Turkey!) only the USA (currently 2M) lock proportionately more away. The prison crisis is also in no small part caused by the absurd privatisations of an essential public service.

  4. Lawman

    Recently a relative of mine, aged 21, has been in a prison for 7 weeks on remand.

    He told me – and I believe him – that:

    * prisoners are shut in their cells for 23 hours a day; let out for exercise, and to collect meals (eaten in cells)

    * the prisoners have 2 ways to pass the time: using drugs (mainly Spice) and fighting

    I am not suggesting he did not deserve imprisonment. If nothing else, it protects society from further crime.

    However, there is nothing for rehabilitation. I wonder if money would be saved by having training courses, and guidance on basic life skills. The cost to the tax payer of imprisonment is great.

    Regardless of that, is it humane to treat people in that way? Yes, some are hardened criminals; more are sad losers; but could we do better?

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