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23 Feb 2016

Holloway prison: Earmarked for closure, but questions remain

The Howard League for Penal Reform has responded to Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons’ report on Holloway prison, published today (Tuesday 23 February).

Inspectors visited the prison in October 2015. The government has since announced plans to close Holloway in the summer – a move that would involve relocating women to a reopened Downview prison, in Surrey.

The report indicates that there has been significant improvement at Holloway, which received a positive inspection in 2013 but several negative ones in the years prior. Inspectors noted that the prison was generally safe and well controlled, and substance misuse services met the needs of women well.

Inspectors drew particular attention to the high standard of resettlement and support services that are available to women in Holloway.

The inspection team also found, however, that there would still be room for improvement if the prison were not closing, particularly in regard to purposeful activity and segregation. Holloway is the largest women’s prison in the country, and the report emphasises the need for women to be held in smaller units.

Andrew Neilson, Director of Campaigns at the Howard League for Penal Reform, said: “Holloway is earmarked for closure, and the inspectorate is entirely right to say that the fall in the number of women in prison presents an opportunity to reduce the number of prison places available for them. This report supports our view that money made from the sale of Holloway should be invested in providing smaller units and finding a way to maintain the good resettlement and support services currently available in Central London, which will be difficult to replicate if women are relocated to Downview. We need to know more from the Ministry of Justice about its plans. Simply moving women from Holloway to Downview could create more problems than it solves.”

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 Holloway inspection report can be found on the HM Inspectorate of Prisons website from Tuesday 23 February at:


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