Murders, drugs and self-harm: Wandsworth HMP exposed by BBC amid government plans to close jail

An exposé has drawn national attention towards conditions at Wandsworth Prison following the prison reform proposals announced in Wednesday’s Queen’s Speech

The BBC gained access to HM Prison Wandsworth and uncovered a culture of violence and drugs which the officers are struggling to cope with.

Figures published this week indicate that Wandsworth prison is the joint-third most overcrowded prison in the UK at 166% capacity, 625 prisoners over its ‘certified normal accommodation’.

A Howard League for Penal Reform spokesman, Rob Preece, feels that it is no coincidence that the documentary has coincided with Queen’s declarations.

Mr Preece said: “The Ministry of Justice have let a film crew in [to Wandsworth Prison] on the same week that they’ve announced these prison reforms.

“It’s all well and good that the public’s attention has been drawn to it, now it’s just about whether the right thing can be done about it.”

The staff cuts at Wandsworth, which is one of Europe’s largest prisons, has seen the jail’s problems exacerbated in the last two years with 15 deaths in custody – seven of them self-inflicted.

The reforms to Her Majesty’s Prisons were at the heart of the Queen’s speech and aim to provide governors with increased autonomy over all aspects of prison management, including financial and legal freedoms.

In what is the biggest shakeup of prisons since Victorian times, Wandsworth will be one of six prisons where inmates will be re-housed.

Howard League chief executive Frances Crook said: “There is no public service in such disarray as the prisons, and the rising number of assaults, deaths by suicide and incidents of self-injury show that the need for change is urgent.”

Chancellor George Osborne last year cited Wandsworth as one of the candidates for closure after describing the prison as a relic from Victorian times.

Both illegal and legal drugs are being smuggled into prisons leading to further violence among inmates, only last week shocking footage was released showing rival drug gangs attacking each other in Wandsworth prison yard.

In the 12 months to March 2016 there were 290 deaths in total in UK prison custody, an increase of 51 compared to the previous 12.

Prisons Minister Andrew Selous commented: “Our prison system needs reform. We are giving governors greater freedoms to innovate and find better ways of rehabilitating offenders.

“We must do better at reducing violence and preventing drugs entering prison.”

Picture courtesy of diamond geezer, with thanks

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