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30 Jan 2020

Howard League responds to Doncaster prison inspection

The Howard League for Penal Reform has responded to Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons’ report on Doncaster prison, published today (Thursday 30 January).

Inspectors visited Doncaster, which is operated by Serco, in September last year. They found that the prison was severely overcrowded, use of force was rising, and rates of violence and self-injury were high. Five men had lost their lives through suicide in the year leading up to the inspection, and a sixth man died shortly afterwards.

The inspectorate found that about 700 men were being held in ‘doubled up’ shared cells that had been designed to hold only one. Figures on the Howard League website show that, at the end of last month, the prison could accommodate only 738 men but was being asked to look after 1,088.

Doncaster is one of the newest prisons in England and Wales. It opened in 1994.

Frances Crook, Chief Executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform, said: “We all want to reduce crime, and we all want people leaving prison to become law-abiding citizens who have turned their lives around.

“But we will not achieve this if we continue to cram prisons with more and more people than they are designed to hold. The chief inspector is entirely right to call out the ‘sophistry’ that leads to 1,100 men being thrown into a jail meant for 700, and his demand for change must be heard and acted upon.

“Finding an answer to the problems in prisons such as Doncaster is one of the biggest challenges in the Secretary of State for Justice’s in-tray as the government starts to look beyond Brexit. The solution begins with a commitment to reduce the number of people behind bars.”

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 Doncaster inspection report can be viewed on the HM Inspectorate of Prisons website:


Rob Preece
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