Responding to the inspection, Labour’s Shadow Justice Minister Andy Slaughter MP, said: “This report lifts the lid on just how bad the crisis in our prisons really is. The Chief Inspector found that Wandsworth is overcrowded, unsafe and dangerously under-staffed.
“It is running at close to 170% of its capacity and almost every service was found to be insufficient or failing. Inmates are sitting idle in their cells for up to 23 hours a day, without access to rehabilitation programs or work placements. Severe staff shortages are preventing the prison from functioning safely. Ministers need to wake up to how serious the situation is and urgently get a grip on the state of our prisons.’
HMP Wandsworth found to be “Unacceptably overcrowded” by independent report
Inspectors visited the prison over the course of February and March 2015 and found it “unacceptably overcrowded”. This, together with severe staff shortages, meant that almost every service at Wandsworth prison was insufficient to meet the needs of its prisoners.
As with the recent inspection on Pentonville prison, Wandsworth was understaffed and the majority of prisoners were spending more than 18 hours per day locked up – with a third of prisoners locked up for 23 hours a day. The prison was holding 1,630 adult men at the time of the inspection, more than any other prison in the UK, and almost 70 per cent more than the number it was designed to hold. Since the last inspection, the prison’s budget had been reduced by about 25 per cent.
Inspectors found that 10 prisoners had died since the last inspection in May and June 2013. Four of the deaths were self-inflicted and, despite a report from the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman after one of those deaths, the recommendations were not fully embedded. The inspectorate was notified of two further deaths as the report was being prepared: one was self-inflicted and the other was an apparent homicide.
Frances Crook, Chief Executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform, said: “As the Secretary of State for Justice only recently acknowledged, there are real problems in prisons which amount to a collective failure to redeem and offer rehabilitation to those who commit crime.
“Last month the striking example of that failure was a report into Pentonville prison. Now we have a report into another large London local prison, Wandsworth, and the verdict is the same: quite frankly, a terrible one.
“Over the summer the Ministry of Justice will be modelling budget cuts of between 25 per cent and 40 per cent as its response to the upcoming spending review. Such cuts are achievable, but only if demand on prisons like Wandsworth is curtailed. The consequences of starving prisons of further resources, while allowing the prison population to climb further, would be more people dying, more failure and ultimately more crime.”
Notes to editors
- Since January 2014, 13 people have died at the prison, of which:
4 were of natural causes
6 were deaths by suicide
2 are awaiting further information
1 is an apparent homicide
- A copy of the Wandsworth inspection report can be found on the HM Inspectorate of Prisons website: http://www.justiceinspectorates.gov.uk/hmiprisons