Skip Content

9 Oct 2018

Howard League responds to Exeter prison inspection

The Howard League for Penal Reform has responded to Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons’ report on Exeter prison, published today (Tuesday 9 October).

The Howard League is aware of 11 men who have died at the prison since the beginning of 2017.

Inspectors visited the prison in May this year and found conditions so alarming that the Chief Inspector of Prisons invoked the Urgent Notification protocol, requiring the Secretary of State for Justice to respond publicly with plans to improve the jail.

Six men had lost their lives through suicide since the previous inspection, which was conducted in August 2016. A seventh man died by suicide a few weeks after the 2018 inspection.

The rate of assaults had more than doubled since the 2016 inspection, and incidents of self-injury had risen by 40 per cent. Three in five prisoners told inspectors that it was easy to obtain drugs. One in four prisoners was receiving support for mental health issues.

Exeter is one of the most overcrowded prisons in England and Wales. Figures on the Howard League website show that, although the prison is designed to accommodate 318 men, it was being asked to look after 461 at the end of August.

Frances Crook, Chief Executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform, said: “The alarming deterioration of Exeter prison is a national scandal, and it raises urgent questions about the prison system as a whole.

“How inured to the problems in the system have we become when we have a prison where violence has more than doubled, self-injury is rising, drug abuse is rife, and staff working on the wings consider this to be normal?

“And how many people must lose their lives before bold action is taken to put things right?

“This inspection report on Exeter should serve as a warning that hiring more staff is not sufficient to turn around overcrowded and overburdened jails.

“Ultimately, reducing the prison population is the only way that we will protect staff, save lives and prevent more people being swept into deeper currents of crime, violence and despair.”

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 Exeter inspection report will be available from Tuesday 9 October on the HM Inspectorate of Prisons website.


Rob Preece
Campaigns and Communications Manager
Tel: +44 (0)20 7241 7880
Mobile: +44 (0)7714 604955

ISDN line available on 020 7923 4196 – uses a G722 system

For enquiries outside normal office hours, please call +44 (0)7918 681094

  • Join the Howard League

    We are the world's oldest prison charity, bringing people together to advocate for change.

    Join us and make your voice heard
  • Support our work

    We safeguard our independence and do not accept any funding from government.

    Make a donation