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17 May 2016

Nottingham prison inspection illustrates need for urgent action

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

Inspectors visited the prison in February and found that, despite real efforts to improve conditions, there was still too much violence and disorder. There were 229 assaults on staff and prisoners in the six months before the inspection, many of them serious and some involving weapons.

Sixty-one per cent of prisoners surveyed said that they had felt unsafe at some point during their time in the prison – one of the highest proportions that inspectors have seen.

Use of force in Nottingham was very high, with 346 cases recorded in the six months before the inspection. Staff often needlessly wore balaclavas during planned incidents, and there was evidence of collusion between officers when giving written accounts of incidents.

Significant efforts being made to improve living conditions were not helped by shortages of essential items.

Inspectors found that the prison had “suffered from a lack of continuity and consistency” in its leadership. At the time of the inspection there had been five governors in the space of four years.

Frances Crook, Chief Executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform, said: “This report is the latest in a long line of deeply concerning inspections of prisons in England and Wales. Coming only a day after the Justice Committee found that safety in prisons has deteriorated, it illustrates the urgent need for reform.

“Proposals for new legislation are expected tomorrow and, in the long run, we hope to see ministers making changes that are imaginative and radical. But we cannot simply wait for these to wind slowly through Parliament before taking action.

“In order to save lives and reduce violence in the short term, there are immediate measures that could be taken – on issues such as recall to custody – that would ease the pressure on the system, support staff and protect the public.”

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 Nottingham inspection report can be found on the HM Inspectorate of Prisons website from Tuesday 17 May at:


Rob Preece
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