Wandsworth Prison, picture of front of the building, with wooden door and grey stone. Flowers in front of the building, sun shining

Wandsworth prison deemed inhumane and unsafe

Conditions at HMP Wandsworth are inhumane and unsafe according to the IMB report, noting serious overcrowding and increased violence.

The Independent Monitoring Boards (IMB) report published on October 11 states that HMP Wandsworth is chronically overcrowded, creating inhumane conditions with the majority of prisoners sharing cramped cells designed for one person.

Tim Aikens, Chair of the IMB at Wandsworth, said: “It just simply is not decent to have to do everything in one cell on your own.”

Every prison and immigration detention centre in the uk has an Independent Monitoring Board whose role is to monitor and make sure those in the prison are being treated fairly and justly.

The board informs the Minister of Justice what they believe to be good, bad or otherwise in the prison.

According to the report, over the reporting year from June 1 2022 to May 31 2023, despite repeatedly lacking hot water and heating during the winter months, only cosmetic changes occurred and the prison accommodation remained inhumane and unfit for purpose.

In two wings of the prison, there were only 11 shower stalls for 265 men, a situation the report called appalling, unhygienic and unacceptable.

Aikens said: “You’re living in a fairly unpleasant environment and so people get angry.

“If you’re not treated decently on the inside, then what’s your expectation going to be for treatment on the outside.”

The report states that shortages of available staff seriously undermined the ability of the prison to run effectively with the percentage of unavailable officers rarely below 50%.

Aikens said: “If you don’t have either education or training to go to, then you’re in your cell for maybe 20-22 hours a day, because they don’t have the staff to let people out generally for longer.”

Through the year, staff turnover was high and staff experience was limited, with 31% having less than one year of experience.

Aikens claimed that security issues are about inexperience rather than numbers of staff.

He said: “Inexperience potentially leads to more issues around frustration and anger and that can lead to violence.”

Violence rates over the reporting year increased drastically.

Prisoner on staff assaults rose by 21%, and prisoner on prisoner assaults rose by 28%.

Aikens said: “When someone is sentenced to prison you take away their freedom, you don’t take away their dignity or their decency – I feel that very strongly.”

According to the report, access to contraband through various methods including drones appeared easy.

Aikens, who has worked at the IMB for 7 years, explained that one thing that has not changed is the CCTV system at Wandsworth prison.

He added that the CCTV system is broken and hundreds of cameras are out of use, therefore they are relying on the observation of people which is difficult with limited staff.

Aikens said that the next step for Wandsworth prison is to recognise that the prison needs investment in people and infrastructure.

He said: “Is it fit for purpose – in my view absolutely not.

Can it be turned into a place that’s fit for purpose – almost certainly.”

Image Credit: Maureen Barlin licenced under Creative Commons CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 DEED

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