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21 Aug 2019

Howard League responds to Pentonville prison inspection

The Howard League for Penal Reform has responded to Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons’ report on Pentonville prison, published today (Wednesday 21 August).

Inspectors visited the prison in April and found that it was failing. Safety was poor. Violence had increased. Use of force by staff had risen significantly. Four men had died by suicide since 2017.

Almost a third of the men in Pentonville were locked in their cells during the working day. Almost all prisoners under the age of 22 told inspectors that they usually spent less than two hours per day out of their cells during the week.

Pentonville is severely overcrowded. Figures on the Howard League website reveal that, at the end of July this year, the prison was supposed to be holding no more than 694 men but was actually being asked to look after 1,082.

Frances Crook, Chief Executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform, said: “The shameful overcrowding in Pentonville prison puts everyone in danger – the staff, the prisoners, and the public. Keeping men cooped up like battery hens in overcrowded cells with nothing to do is never going to help them to lead crime-free lives on release.

“With a flurry of announcements to the media, Boris Johnson has put himself at the front and centre of the fight to keep drugs out of prisons and prevent crime. Reports like this reveal the scale of the challenge that he has set for himself, and the Howard League will hold him to account for what happens next.

“It is hard to understand how splashing £100million on security measures behind bars will address the fact that, too often, prisoners are given nothing to do and released with nowhere to live. If nothing is done to sort that, prisons such as Pentonville will continue to be like polluting factories, spewing out more and more crime into the communities around them.”

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.    A copy of the Pentonville inspection report can be viewed on the HM Inspectorate of Prisons website.


Rob Preece
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