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8 Dec 2017

Howard League responds to Wormwood Scrubs prison inspection

The Howard League for Penal Reform has responded to Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons’ report on Wormwood Scrubs prison, published today (Friday 8 December).

Inspectors visited the London prison in July and August and found that despite “very serious concerns” raised by inspections in both 2014 and 2015, the prison was still suffering from “persistent and intractable failings”.

Violence was high and serious violence resulting in significant injuries was of particular concern. There had been a ‘dramatic’ increase in violence against staff, with more than 90 assaults in the six months to July. Two out of three prisoners said they had felt unsafe at some point whilst being in Wormwood Scrubs.

The report describes a prison in poor physical condition and with a failing regime. Too many prisoners were locked up in their cells, some for as long as 23 hours. A total of 44 per cent of prisoners were found to be locked in cells during the day and drugs were described as being “very accessible”.

Despite 60 per cent of prisoners at Wormwood Scrubs being black and minority ethnic, equality and diversity work was found to be “neglected” and “poor”.

Resettlement and offender management work was “fundamentally failing” and the quality of public protection work preparing prisoners for release was also not good enough.

Frances Crook, Chief Executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform, said: “We are expecting the Secretary of State of Justice to outline his plans for prisons before the end of the year and this report into Wormwood Scrubs lays bare the reality of what is happening behind bars.

“It is not new to say that overcrowded and under-resourced prisons are failing to provide safe and productive regimes. But what is frankly staggering about this report is that it is the third in four years to say that Wormwood Scrubs is a failing prison.

“This is not a failure of the prison’s staff or management. This is a failure of government. It is time ministers levelled with the public and took the bold but sensible action needed to reduce pressure on prisons such as Wormwood Scrubs.

“We cannot expect such torrents of violence and human misery to flow unchecked without serious consequences for our communities. By reducing the prison population, we can prevent more people being swept into deeper currents of crime, violence and despair.”

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 Wormwood Scrubs prison inspection report will be available from Friday 8 December on the HM Inspectorate of Prisons website:


Andrew Neilson
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