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18 Nov 2014

Hewell: Men resorting to self-harm to get prison basics

The Howard League for Penal Reform has responded to Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons’ report on Hewell prison, published today (Tuesday 18 November).

There had been one murder and six suicides in Hewell since the prison was last inspected in November 2012. Inspectors found that some prisoners self-harmed because their concerns – often about medication or orders through the prison shop system – were not being resolved in other ways.

Inspectors found that prisoners in Hewell felt less safe and more victimised than prisoners at comparable prisons. Several allegations of assault by staff had not been investigated adequately or, in some cases, not at all.

Some 40 per cent of cells were overcrowded, and more than half of all prisoners in the closed site were locked in their cells during the working day.

Almost one in five prisoners told inspectors that they had developed a drug problem in the prison. Health services were impacted by staff shortages, poor access to GP clinics and the frequent cancellation of hospital appointments.

Research by the Howard League has found that the number of frontline officers in Hewell was cut by 48 per cent in less than four years – from 330 at the end of August 2010 to 170 at the end of June 2014.

Frances Crook, Chief Executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform, said: “When inspectors last visited Hewell two years ago, they found a dirty, dangerous and drug-ridden prison. A critical report is normally followed by additional resources and slight improvements, but that hasn’t been the case here – we have seen one murder and six suicides in Hewell since then and conditions have got even worse as staff numbers have been cut further. This is the latest in a long line of negative prison inspection reports which show a public service in meltdown. Ministers cannot carry on blaming the messengers; the buck stops with them. Cramming more people into overcrowded and understaffed prisons leads only to more self-harm, more violence and more victims.”

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.
  2. A copy of the Hewell inspection report can be found on the HM Inspectorate of Prisons website.
  3. The scale of prison staffing cuts across England and Wales is shown in the Howard League’s research briefing paper, Breaking point: Understaffing and overcrowding in prisons, and an update on even further cuts to staff.


Rob Preece
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