A charity which looks after the welfare of prisoners has hit out after an inspection carried out at Wormwood Scrubs found “not nearly enough progress” had been made since a previous inspection 18 months earlier.
The Howard League for Penal Reform was responding to Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons’ report on Wormwood Scrubs which is due to be published on Tuesday (April 12).
Inspectors visited the west London prison, on Du Cane Road near White City, in November and December last year, and according to the Howard League, its findings make grim reading.
The charity also said its prisoner helpline number had received many calls about issues arising from Wormwood Scrubs.
According to the Howard League, the new report lists a number of failings. Two prisoners had taken their own lives since the last inspection and safety had deteriorated, with violence and use of force at much higher levels than in similar prisons.
Most prisoners were locked in their cells for more than 22 hours a day; and the prison had a “significant rat problem”, and about two-in-five prisoners said that it was easy to get drugs into the prison.
The charity, which has criticsed standards at the prison before, also criticised the government’s “carve up of probation” under its transforming Rehabilitation programme, saying it had resulted to the proportion of prisoners being made homeless on release rising from five to 40%.
'The same tired excuses'
Frances Crook, chief executive of the Howard League, said: “This is another terrible report on Wormwood Scrubs prison, coming only 18 months after the last one and following a long line of critical inspections of jails across England and Wales.
“The same, tired excuses will be used – that the prison is too old – but if old buildings were the problem, we would be tearing down Oxbridge. Prisons with too many prisoners and too few staff will fail, no matter how old they are.
"We cannot go on cramming more and more people into jails without any thought for the consequences.
“It is especially concerning that, only a year after a successful, high-performing, public probation service was dismantled for profit, provision has deteriorated to the extent that two in five men released from Wormwood Scrubs are being made homeless.
“Clear evidence is beginning to emerge that the government’s Transforming Rehabilitation programme could be contributing to the crime problem, not solving it.”
'Prisoners beaten up in camera blind spots'
The charity, which runs the only confidential legal service available to children and young adults for help about their incarceration, also revealed some of the phone calls it has taken from inmates.
One call raised the plight of a 21-year-old man, who is said to have been attacked by a number of prisoners, suffering injuries to his face. A second attack on him was attempted a couple of months later.
Another person contacted the Howard League because she was concerned for a prisoner who she said had gone six days without receiving his medication.
And another prisoner called to report that there were “blind spots” in the prison, not covered by CCTV, where prisoners were being beaten up.
A statement from the Ministry of Justice is expected on Tuesday.