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26 Jul 2016

Howard League responds to Swaleside prison inspection

Swaleside is not a safe prison, an inspection report reveals today (Tuesday 26 July).

The report, published by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons, reveals that Swaleside, a prison on the Isle of Sheppey, has high levels of violence. Over two-thirds of the prisoners reported feeling unsafe.

As well as the high levels of violence, inspectors found that the use of force by staff on prisoners was extremely high and not always proportionate or justifiable, while the prison segregation unit was found to be “filthy and poor in all respects”. 52 per cent of prisoners said it was easy or very easy to get drugs at the prison.

Medical practices were also found to be unsafe – with no supervision of dispensing medicine to reduce trade of prescription drugs and related bullying, and hospital escorts being cancelled against medical advice. Despite Swaleside being a training prison, there was a shortfall of at least 200 available work, training or education places and inspectors found 40 per cent of prisoners were locked up during the working day.

The impact on staff was also negative. The Inspectorate’s report states: “Many staff had become demotivated and overwhelmed and too many of them were temporary or inexperienced. There was the all too familiar story of a lack of consistency in the leadership of the prison. There had been four governors in the past five years, which we were told had contributed to what we perceived as a sense of drift and decline.”

Frances Crook, Chief Executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform, said: “This is yet another dreadful report into a failing prison and one which reiterates the systemic problems faced in prisons across the country. When we send people to dangerous prisons with such high levels of violence and nothing productive to do, it should be no surprise that they are swept into ever deeper currents of crime.

“The urgent need for change has not gone away. We are writing to the new Justice Secretary to request a meeting so that we can discuss how she will meet the challenges to be met behind bars.”

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 Swaleside inspection report can be found on the HM Inspectorate of Prisons website.


Rob Preece
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