23 Nov 2018
Revealed: The filthy prisons where prisoners can’t keep clean
Many prisoners in England and Wales say they are unable to shower every day, with some children in custody getting only two showers a week, the Howard League for Penal Reform has found.
Survey results from official inspections reveal that, in some of the most troubled jails, less than half of prisoners said that they were able to shower daily.
In one London prison, the proportion of men who said that they could shower daily was just one in six.
The figures highlight poor hygiene in a failing prison system that remains beleaguered by problems caused by chronic overcrowding and staffing shortages.
Frances Crook, Chief Executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform, said: “The government has said that it wants prisons to be clean and decent, but is ignoring the fact that thousands of children and adult men are smelly and dirty because they cannot get a shower. It’s no good cleaning up prisons if prisoners are not able to keep clean.
“If we want people to be work ready, and ready to reintegrate to lead a good and useful life, people in prison must be at least able to have a shower every morning, eat breakfast and face the day with purpose. Squalor and idleness will not ready people to be law-abiding citizens on release.
“Bold action is needed to reduce the number of people behind bars and ease pressure on a prison system that is failing everyone.”
The Howard League analysed the results from prisoner surveys undertaken by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons during each prison’s most recent inspection.
In Belmarsh prison, in south-east London, only one in six men (17 per cent) who responded to the inspectorate’s survey said that they were able to have a shower every day.
Other prisons with alarming survey results include Isis (24 per cent), Aylesbury (25 per cent), Swinfen Hall (27 per cent), Dartmoor (31 per cent) and Pentonville (36 per cent).
Feltham, in west London, is another prison where access to showers is poor. The prison is split into two parts – Feltham ‘A’, which holds boys, and Feltham ‘B’, which holds young men.
Surveys show that, in Feltham A, only 39 per cent of the children who responded said that they could have a shower every day. The proportion of young men who could shower in Feltham B was slightly higher, but still low at 57 per cent.
In a further 28 prisons, less than 80 per cent of respondents said they could shower daily. They were: Birmingham (71 per cent); Brixton (61 per cent); Bullingdon (78 per cent); Cardiff (77 per cent); Durham (77 per cent); Elmley (77 per cent); Featherstone (79 per cent); Guys Marsh (78 per cent); Holme House (77 per cent); Leeds (78 per cent); Lincoln (51 per cent); Liverpool (65 per cent); Manchester (71 per cent); New Hall (79 per cent); Norwich (79 per cent); Nottingham (76 per cent); Portland (66 per cent); Preston (64 per cent); Risley (78 per cent); Swaleside (67 per cent); Swansea (65 per cent); The Mount (75 per cent); Wandsworth (51 per cent); Werrington (69 per cent); Wetherby (76 per cent); Winchester (55 per cent); Woodhill (77 per cent); and Wormwood Scrubs (63 per cent).
Through its legal work, the Howard League is aware that some children in custody are getting only two showers a week. At least one prison has a policy stating that this is the “minimum expectation” for some of the children in its care.
The Howard League runs a free and confidential legal advice line for children and young people in custody.
Notes to editors
- 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.
- In 2017 Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons published a report on living conditions inside prisons, together with photographs taken during official inspections. Life in prison: Living conditions can be found on the inspectorate’s website.
- The survey results for each prison in England and Wales are listed in the table below:
|Prison||Date of inspection||Respondents who said they could shower every day|
|East Sutton Park||2016||99%|
|Isle of Wight||2015||92%|
|North Sea Camp||2017||99%|
|Parc Young Person’s Unit (holds children)||2017||84%|
*Feltham prison is split into two parts – Feltham ‘A’, which holds boys, and Feltham ‘B’, which holds young men.
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