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5 Apr 2023

Howard League responds to Lewes prison inspection report

The Howard League for Penal Reform has responded to His Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons’ independent review of progress on Lewes prison, published today (Wednesday 5 April).

Inspectors revisited the prison, in East Sussex, in February and found squalid conditions, rising self-harm and alarmingly little time out of cell.

Inspectors last visited the prison for a full inspection in May 2022, and highlighted concerns about living conditions, rates of violence, staffing levels, care for vulnerable prisoners, healthcare and the time prisoners were spending locked in their cells. During this visit in February 2023, inspectors were disappointed to find that conditions had deteriorated further.

Around half of the men held at Lewes were not allocated education or employment and were spending up to 23 hours a day locked in their cells. Many cells contained graffiti and toilets were filthy.

Inspectors also found no improvement in the concerning lack of care for the most vulnerable prisoners, who said that they did not feel well cared for. Inspectors found significant evidence to support these statements, with increased self-harm rates in the prison and rising numbers of calls to the Samaritans for support.

Levels of violence at the prison continued to be high, and staffing issues meant that serious violent incidents were not able to be investigated or acted on promptly.

Rob Preece, Communications Manager at the Howard League for Penal Reform, said: “This alarming report on Lewes underlines the fact that, for thousands of people in prison, lockdown conditions have continued long after the height of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“One of the reasons for this is an acute shortage of staff, and for at least half the men in Lewes it means spending 23 hours locked inside their cells with nothing to do. The rising number of self-harm incidents and calls to the Samaritans reflect their growing despair.

“These conditions will never help people to turn their lives around and move on from crime. This is why the government’s plan to build more prisons – at a time when there are insufficient staff to run the ones we already have – is so reckless.”


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 independent review of progress report for Lewes 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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