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9 Apr 2024

Peterborough prison: Drugs, overcrowding and men released to homelessness

The Howard League for Penal Reform has responded to HM Inspectorate of Prisons’ report on Peterborough men’s prison, published today (Tuesday 9 April).

Inspectors visited the Sodexo-run private prison, in Cambridgeshire, in January 2024 and found that it was struggling with the churn of people being recalled to custody. In the previous 12 months, the prison had released about 1,200 men but received about 700 who had been recalled during their community supervision period.

About 30% of men leaving the prison were released without somewhere to live. An early release scheme, introduced by the government to address overcrowding problems, had added further pressure on the jail. Some men, for whom accommodation had not been found, had been recalled to prison even before their original release date had passed.

Other issues raised in the report include staff shortages, overcrowding, a lack of purposeful activity, and increasing concern about drugs. About 16% of men who were surveyed said that they had developed a drug problem since arriving at the jail.

Andrew Neilson, Director of Campaigns at the Howard League for Penal Reform, said: “This report on Peterborough reveals how people in prison are being denied the support they need to move on from crime. It also shows how problems in jails spill out into the towns and cities around them.

“Buckling under the weight of chronic overcrowding and staff shortages, this prison is releasing hundreds of men to homelessness, then having to find room for them again within a few weeks or months. Many of those who arrive will develop a drug problem before they leave.

“By failing to plan, the government has planned to fail. Our prisons are under so much pressure that an early release scheme is imperative, but this report shows its limitations as an emergency measure. It is no substitute for what is really needed: a more sensible response to crime that puts fewer people behind bars and more money into services that can help them.”

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. The inspection report for Peterborough men’s prison will be available on the HM Inspectorate of Prisons website.


Rob Preece
Communications Manager
Tel: +44 (0)7714 604955

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