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9 Feb 2022

Howard League responds to Foston Hall prison inspection report

The Howard League for Penal Reform has responded to Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons’ report on Foston Hall prison, published today (Wednesday 9 February).

Inspectors visited the women’s prison, in Derbyshire, in October and November last year, and found that conditions had deteriorated during the Covid-19 pandemic. Staff shortages were common, leading to rising stress and frustration, and women were routinely locked in their cells for 24 hours a day at weekends. Use of force by staff had doubled and violence and self-harm were high.

The report reveals that women were making 1,000 calls a month to the Samaritans but the prison had no strategy to reduce self-harm or improve the care for those in crisis. Messages left on the prison’s crisis hotline had not been checked for six weeks.

The inspectorate’s findings from Foston Hall are also included in a separate briefing that provides an overview of inspections carried out at five women’s prisons during the pandemic.

The briefing – which also covers Send, Low Newton, Downview and Styal prisons – reveals that self-harm is more common for women in prison than men and has increased during the pandemic to record levels.

Andrea Coomber, Chief Executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform, said: “This shocking report on the appalling lack of care and support in Foston Hall prison ought to be a turning point for the government’s approach to women in trouble.

“Such a horrifying account of extreme mental distress and self-harm makes clear why ministers should abandon their plans to build 500 more prison places and return instead to the strategy the government published in 2018, focused on keeping women out of a failing system that is designed for men.

“A decade and a half on from the Corston report, these findings are a massive indictment of the failure to act to keep women safe.”

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 Foston Hall inspection report can be viewed on the Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons website at:
  3. The briefing paper, Focus on women’s prisons, can be viewed on the Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons website at:


Rob Preece
Campaigns and Communications Manager
Mobile: +44 (0)7714 604955

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