Skip Content

13 Jul 2018

Howard League responds to Wandsworth prison inspection

The Howard League for Penal Reform has responded to Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons’ report on Wandsworth prison, published today (Friday 13 July).

Wandsworth, in south London, is the most overcrowded prison in England and Wales. Figures on the Howard League website show that, although the prison is designed to accommodate 841 men, it was being asked to look after 1,365 at the end of May.

But the number of prisoners has been falling. At the end of September 2017, Wandsworth was holding 1,570 men. The number had dropped to 1,428 by the time inspectors arrived in February this year, and it has continued to fall since.

Inspectors found the prison to be filled with many men with drug or mental health problems who were receiving poor training and education. Their report highlights the need for cultural change inside the prison, drawing attention to “an obvious gap between the intentions of senior managers and what was actually happening on the wings”.

Almost half of the men were locked in their cells during the working day. Forty per cent of prisoners told inspectors that it was easy to get illicit drugs, and 450 referrals were made to the mental health team each month.

Six men had lost their lives through suicide since the prison’s previous inspection, conducted in February and March 2015.

Frances Crook, Chief Executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform, said: “Wandsworth is the most overcrowded prison in the country and, as today’s report shows, it faces significant challenges. Too often prisons are being asked to cope with the fall-out from other services like mental health and the lack of housing that has led to custodial remands and short sentences for trivial but repeat offences.

“But we are beginning to see some steps in the right direction – the number of prisoners has fallen by more than 200 in eight months. Having fewer prisoners and more staff provides breathing space and presents an opportunity to change the culture inside the prison.

“It is vital that this trend continues. Further action to ease pressure on our overcrowded prison system would save lives, protect staff and prevent more people being swept into deeper currents of crime.”

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. Overcrowding figures for each prison in England and Wales can be found on the Howard League website.
  1. A copy of the Wandsworth inspection report will be available from Friday 13 July on the HM Inspectorate of Prisons website.


Rob Preece
Campaigns and Communications Manager
Tel: +44 (0)20 7241 7880
Mobile: +44 (0)7714 604955

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

For enquiries outside normal office hours, please call +44 (0)7918 681094

  • 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