Chief Inspector of Prisons publishes highly critical report
Overcrowding and severe staff shortages meant that almost every service at HMP Wandsworth was insufficient to meet the needs of the prison population, said Nick Hardwick, Chief Inspector of Prisons. Yesterday (July 29th) he published the report of an unannounced inspection of the prison between February 23rd and March 6th this year.
He concluded that HMP Wandsworth was unacceptably overcrowded. It holds 1,630 adult men, more than any other prison in the UK, and almost 70% more than its certified normal accommodation of 963.
Nick Hardwick said: “Overcrowding and severe staff shortages had led to deteriorating outcomes at HMP Wandsworth. It was not simply a matter of prisoners spending practically all day confined in shared cells the Victorians had designed for one – unacceptable though that was. Overcrowding, combined with severe staff shortages meant that almost every service was insufficient to meet the needs of the population.
The population had grown and changed since the prison’s last inspection in 2013. The category B prisoners it holds were typical of inner city local prisons, with a high incidence of mental health and substance abuse problems. Meanwhile its Category C prisoners had needed work, education and training opportunities. Severe staffing shortages compromised the prison’s ability to meet the needs of either group. Since the last inspection, staffing levels had been reduced by about 100 across all grades. This was compounded by difficulty in recruiting and retaining staff.
Mr Hardwick added: “Managers and staff in the prison deserve credit for preventing the prison from deteriorating further, but it was not a surprise that some managers and staff were demoralised and others were clearly exhausted. Not all the problems at Wandsworth were a result of the population and resource pressures and this report identifies important areas the prison itself can and should address. Nevertheless, the Prison Service nationally will need to address the mismatch between a prison’s available resources and the size and needs of its population. Unless this is addressed, prisons will struggle to hold men safely and decently and to reassure the public that effective work has been done to reduce the risk that prisoners will reoffend and create more victims after release.”
Inspectors were concerned to find that:
However, inspectors were pleased to find that:
Michael Spurr, Chief Executive of the National Offender Management Service, said:“This inspection took place at a time when staffing numbers at Wandsworth had dropped below budgeted levels because of a sharp unplanned increase in staff turnover. Action has been taken to support Wandsworth with additional staff from other Prison Service establishments and the gaol is now providing a limited but decent and consistent regime.
“As the Chief Inspector makes clear – there is more to do to achieve the level of purposeful activity and regime required to effectively support prisoners and help reduce reoffending. Recruitment of new staff is underway and we are determined to improve outcomes at Wandsworth both for prisoners and for the public over the coming 12 months. We will use the recommendations in this inspection report to support that process.”
July 30, 2015