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13 Dec 2016

Cardiff prison: Easy to find drugs, harder to find clean clothes and bedding

The Howard League for Penal Reform has responded to Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons’ report on Cardiff prison, published today (Tuesday 13 December).

Inspectors visited the prison in July and August and found it to be understaffed and overcrowded. Designed to accommodate 539 men, it was actually holding 770 at the time of the inspection. A significant number of men had been transferred into the prison from English jails.

Staff shortages and the increased availability and use of new psychoactive substances had led to a rise in unpredictable and violent behaviour. Almost half of prisoners said that it was easy to get illegal drugs.

The shortfalls in staffing meant that a temporary restricted regime was in place at the time of the inspection. Inspectors’ roll checks during the working day found that almost half of prisoners were locked in their cells.

Inspectors found that some cells were in a poor state, and there was a lack of basic facilities such as clean clothes and bedding. Many prisoners had only one set of clothes.

Cardiff prison had an unusually high level of reported mental health problems. Healthcare was generally good, and there was good provision for those suffering from severe mental health issues. There were, however, a large number of prisoners with lower-level mental health problems whose needs were not being adequately met.

Cardiff is one of the first prisons to have implemented a smoking ban. Inspectors found that there had been a short-term rise in violent incidents, but that measures introduced by management, such as providing access to e-cigarettes and training peer supporters to help people give up smoking, had been reasonably effective.

Frances Crook, Chief Executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform, said: “This inspection report on Cardiff prison is slightly better than reports on other prisons which we have seen of late, but still it raises considerable cause for concern.

“Cardiff is an overcrowded and understaffed prison where it is easy to get drugs but much harder to get clean bedding. It is disgusting to find that many of the men crammed into this jail have only one set of clothes to wear.

“This report illustrates why we must reduce pressure on the prison system. Bold action is needed to stop throwing so many people into these failing institutions, where they are swept away into deeper currents of crime.”

Notes to editors

  1. The Howard League for Penal Reform is the oldest penal reform charity in the world. It is a national charity working for less crime, safer communities and fewer people in prison.
  1. A copy of the Cardiff inspection report can be found on the HM Inspectorate of Prisons website from Tuesday 13 December.


Rob Preece
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