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17 Feb 2016

Leicester prison: The catastrophic impact of overcrowding

The Howard League for Penal Reform has responded to Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons’ report on Leicester prison, published today (Wednesday 17 February).

Inspectors made an unannounced visited to the prison in September and October last year and found that conditions had deteriorated significantly since the last inspection.

The prison was holding 325 men – 50 per cent more than the number for which it was built. Three prisoners had died since the last inspection in November 2013, including two men who are believed to have taken their own lives.

The number of self-injury incidents had soared by 50 per cent since the last inspection – to five times the level seen in other local prisons. Living conditions in the segregation unit were so bad that inspectors have recommended that it should be closed immediately.

Some prisoners were locked in their cells for 22 hours a day. Inspectors found that ‘neither staff nor prisoners seemed to know what to expect from the daily routine and the consequence was chaos’.

Frances Crook, Chief Executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform, said: “This report sets out in stark detail the catastrophic impact of overcrowding in prisons. Violence is rife. Prisoners can get alcohol and legal highs easily, but they cannot get the basics, such as toiletries, clean clothes and bedding. Leicester is an old prison, built in the Victorian era, but the building alone is not to blame for these failures. A new prison overcrowded to this extent would have the same problems. We cannot go on cramming more people into jails without any thought for the consequences. The Prime Minister has recognised that prisons are failing and that wholesale reform is needed. It is now time for the government to deliver on that promise as conditions are getting worse by the day.”

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


Rob Preece
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