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16 May 2018

Howard League responds to Nottingham prison inspection

The Howard League for Penal Reform has responded to Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons’ report on Nottingham prison, published today (Wednesday 16 May). The report describes the prison as a “dangerous, disrespectful, drug-ridden jail”.

Inspectors visited the prison in December 2017 and January 2018 and found that it was unsafe. Eight men had lost their lives through suicide since the last inspection, including four who died within a four-week period during the autumn of 2017. A ninth man died only a few weeks after the inspection.

Two-thirds of men told inspectors that they had felt unsafe at some point during their stay in Nottingham. Well over half reported bullying or victimisation. There had been 344 incidents of self-injury in the six months leading to the inspection – one every 13 hours.

More than 100 assaults on staff had been recorded during the six months leading to the inspection. Inspectors were told that more than half of wing-based staff were within their first year of service.

The prison was overcrowded. At the time of the inspection, Nottingham was designed to accommodate 718 men but was trying to look after 964.

Frances Crook, Chief Executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform, said: “This devastating report is a direct challenge to everyone involved in the criminal justice system, running from ministers to sentencers all the way to the prisons where people are dying.

“It is a national scandal that so many people have died in our prisons. But we cannot keep blaming prisons alone for these tragedies – they are at the end of the chain in an under-resourced and overburdened criminal justice system that is failing everyone.

“I am meeting the Secretary of State tomorrow (Thursday 17 May) and I will be putting it to him that he needs to get a grip on the courts, on probation and on prisons.

“The urgent need for bold action to reduce the prison population is inescapable. Ministers must move decisively to save lives, protect staff and prevent more people being swept into deeper currents of violence, drugs and despair.”

This was the third inspection in a row to find that safety in Nottingham was poor. It prompted Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Prisons, Peter Clarke, to write publicly to the Secretary of State for Justice under the new urgent notification protocol.

The inspectorate’s findings have been supported by the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman, which investigates deaths in custody.

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 prison inspection report will be available from Wednesday 16 May on the HM Inspectorate of Prisons website.
  1. Overcrowding figures for each prison in England and Wales can be found on the Howard League website.


Rob Preece
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