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6 Oct 2016

Isis prison: Six years old and failing

The Howard League for Penal Reform has responded to Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons’ report on Isis prison, published today (Thursday 6 October).

Inspectors visited Isis in May and found poor conditions, with the prison failing to provide prisoners with work, training or education. They concluded that “as a training prison Isis was completely failing in its central purpose”.

The prison was overcrowded. Designed to accommodate 478 men, it was actually holding more than 600, nearly all of whom were under the age of 30 and a significant number were teenagers.

In 2013 the prison introduced what was meant to be a “temporary” restricted regime in response to staff shortages. It was still in place when inspectors visited three years later. Some young men spent 23 hours a day in their cells. Although Isis is a designated training prison, more than one-third of prisoners were locked up during the working day.

Isis is a new prison, opened in 2010, but conditions on the wings and in the cells were unacceptable. Many wings were dirty, cells were poorly equipped, and prisoners struggled to get clean kit, showers, and other basics of daily living. Only one in four prisoners said that they could shower daily, and many were unable to have a shower for three days or more.

Levels of violence were high, and use of force had increased by 51 per cent since the previous inspection. There were 200 fights and assaults in 2015. More than two in five prisoners told inspectors that they had felt unsafe at some point. There had been 68 incidents of self-harm during the previous six months, more than twice as many as there were during the same period before the previous inspection.

Frances Crook, Chief Executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform, said: “This dreadful inspection report shows that building new jails is not the solution to the problems that are rife in the prison system. You cannot build your way out of a crisis.

“Isis is only six years old, but it is violent, filthy, overcrowded, understaffed, and failing to help people to lead crime-free lives. The picture painted by inspectors is nothing short of a disgrace.

“Enough is enough. Instead of enduring more of these terrible inspection reports, the government must match its warm words with action. We must stop throwing so many people into these failing institutions, where they are swept away into deeper currents of crime by the boredom, drug abuse and violence behind bars.

“At a meeting during the Conservative Party conference when I shared a panel with the Prisons Minister, I presented a plan that would provide immediate relief to the overcrowding crisis without waiting for legislation. We should cut the number of days imposed for misbehaviour, reduce administrative recalls and ease people through parole safely. I look forward to swift action.”

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 Isis inspection report can be found on the HM Inspectorate of Prisons website from Thursday 6 October.


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