A recent inspection of Wormwood Scrubs prison has led to it being described as “filthy” and “unsafe” by inspectors.
Nearly half of inmates felt they were in danger during their time at the London jail. According to the report by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons and at the time of the unannounced inspection in May, 22% of inmates said they felt unsafe. HMIP said six prisoners had committed suicide since the previous inspection in 2011.
The National Offender Management Service (NOMS) said the prison had been through “a difficult change process”. The Victorian jail experienced major structural changes in late 2013 and as a result a “large tranche of experienced staff” left, the report found.
Chief inspector of prisons Nick Hardwick commented that the findings were “very disappointing”. He added:
“There was some recent evidence that important steps had been taken to arrest the decline, but there was still much to be done.”
Inspectors said the prison had failed to put in place previous recommendations by the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman in relation to issues of suicide and self-harm. The jail holds a capacity of 1,300 prisoners and sees approximately 2,500 inmates come in and out each month.
Michael Spurr, chief executive of NOMS, said:
“Wormwood Scrubs has been through a difficult change process.
“I have never seen a public service deteriorate so rapidly and so profoundly.
“It has had to adapt to hold young offenders alongside its adult population whilst implementing new structures and routines to provide a decent regime for prisoners at lower cost.
“This has not been an easy transition, however as the chief inspector acknowledges the governor has taken decisive action to address the situation.”
Issues raised in the report were that a number of cells designed for one prisoner held two, many windows were broken with exposed glass, graffiti was widespread and the toilets were filthy. The report stated: “Many staff appeared extremely stretched and some were clearly frustrated that they could not do more; others appeared to have lost focus on prisoners’ needs.”
Frances Crook, chief executive of charity the Howard League for Penal Reform, commented:
“People are dying and staff are put in danger as a result.
“Prisons have gone into meltdown in the last year and it is a direct result of government policy.
“I have never seen a public service deteriorate so rapidly and so profoundly.”
The Prison Reform Trust criticised the government’s “drastic cuts”, saying the jail had gone from “getting the basics right to one where standards have deteriorated”.