Skip Content

28 Feb 2017

Howard League responds to Featherstone prison inspection

The Howard League for Penal Reform has responded to Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons’ report on Featherstone prison, published today (Tuesday 28 February).

The inspection describes a chaotic prison facing serious decline, with high levels of violence and easy access to drugs. More than one in five prisoners said they had developed a drug problem while in the prison.

Inspectors visited Featherstone in October and November 2016. The picture drawn by the report is particularly disturbing, even against the backdrop of numerous poor inspection reports in recent times.

Thirty-seven per cent of prisoners said that they felt unsafe, more than double the number at the last inspection in 2013. Levels of violence had increased considerably and violence against staff had increased the most. Inspectors saw clear evidence of poor industrial relations, staff shortages and some significant prisoner unrest.

A number of prisoners were ‘self-isolating’, such was their fear of the violence in Featherstone. These men were living in fear, remaining locked up and isolated for almost the entire day, day after day, without any meaningful contact with staff. Inspectors describe shocking levels of abuse, with these ‘self-isolators’ describing “people shouting through, spitting at and urinating under the cell door”.

There was no regulation or managerial oversight of these prisoners and no plans to address the reasons behind their segregation or to reintegrate them into the wider population.

Frances Crook, Chief Executive at the Howard League for Penal Reform, said: “This is such a disappointing report. I visited Featherstone some years ago when it was a busy place looking to develop real work for long term prisoners. The report is particularly poignant coming only a few days after a man took his own life in the prison.

“Prisons are in meltdown and my worry is that the plans laid out by government are not going far enough to solve problems, protect lives and make prisons purposeful.”

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 Featherstone inspection report can be found on the HM Inspectorate of Prisons website from Tuesday 28 February at:


Andrew Neilson
Director of Campaigns
Tel: +44 (0)20 7241 7868
Mobile: +44 (0)7918 681094

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

  • 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