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14 Mar 2023

Howard League responds to Aylesbury prison inspection report

The Howard League for Penal Reform has responded to His Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons’ report on Aylesbury prison, published today (Tuesday 14 March 2023).

Inspectors visited the prison, in Buckinghamshire, in November and December 2022 and found a prison thrown into chaos after having been re-designated to a category C training establishment in response to national population pressures.

Aylesbury prison previously held young men aged 18 to 21 serving long sentences. But due to rising numbers in the prison estate, it has been abruptly redesignated with minimal consultation, notice or support. Inspectors noted that problems stemming from this transition were underlying almost all issues identified at this inspection.

An extreme staffing shortage was found at the prison, in all grades and disciplines. This had direct impacts on health care, time out of cell, education, skills and work and rehabilitation services. The dire lack of adequate staffing also had a significant detrimental impact on daily regime, with around 40 per cent of prisoners unemployed and those without activity spending up to 23 hours a day locked up.

Worryingly, for a prison in which 70 per cent of the population were assessed to be a high risk of serious harm to the public, work to reduce reoffending and safe release planning were unstable and deemed lacking. There were limited offender management or progression opportunities, virtually no key work, and hardly any support for resettlement on release.

Andrew Neilson, Director of Campaigns at the Howard League for Penal Reform, said: “This report on Aylesbury reveals why growing the prison population with little thought for the consequences creates more problems for everyone.

“An understaffed prison which has failed repeatedly to help young adults move on from crime has now been placed under even greater pressure because the government is resorting to panic measures to respond to rising numbers. The result has been disastrous, with little or no support to prepare people for safe release.

“Investing in employment, education and healthcare and reducing the prison population would do far more to prevent crime than locking people in cells all day with nothing to do.”

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. The inspection report for Aylesbury prison is available on the His Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons website at:


Noor Khan

Press and Public Affairs Officer

Tel: +44 (0)20 7241 7873




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