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12 Apr 2016

Wormwood Scrubs prison report lays bare the damaging impact of the government’s Transforming Rehabilitation programme

The Howard League for Penal Reform has responded to Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons’ report on Wormwood Scrubs prison, published today (Tuesday 12 April).

Inspectors visited the London prison in November and December last year and found that “not nearly enough progress” had been made since the last inspection, carried out 18 months previously.

In a particularly concerning development, the report lays bare the damaging impact of the government’s carve-up of probation, under its Transforming Rehabilitation programme.

According to the prison’s own data, the proportion of prisoners being made homeless on release has risen from 5 per cent to 40 per cent since resettlement services were taken over by London Community Rehabilitation Company, which is owned by private firm MTCnovo.

Safety in Wormwood Scrubs had deteriorated, violence and use of force were at much higher levels than in similar prisons, and two prisoners had taken their own lives since the last inspection.

Most prisoners were locked in their cells for more than 22 hours a day, and the prison had a “significant rat problem”.

About two in five prisoners said that it was easy to get drugs into the prison and that drug use was linked to gang activity and debt. Inadequate arrangements for prisoners with alcohol problems were “particularly dangerous”, inspectors added.

Frances Crook, Chief Executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform, said: “This is another terrible report on Wormwood Scrubs prison, coming only 18 months after the last one and following a long line of critical inspections of jails across England and Wales. The same, tired excuses will be used – that the prison is too old – but if old buildings were the problem, we would be tearing down Oxbridge. Prisons with too many prisoners and too few staff will fail, no matter how old they are. We cannot go on cramming more and more people into jails without any thought for the consequences.

“It is especially concerning that, only a year after a successful, high-performing, public probation service was dismantled for profit, provision has deteriorated to the extent that two in five men released from Wormwood Scrubs are being made homeless. Clear evidence is beginning to emerge that the government’s Transforming Rehabilitation programme could be contributing to the crime problem, not solving it.”

The Howard League’s free advice line – the only confidential legal service available to children and young adults for help about their incarceration – has received a number of calls about issues arising in Wormwood Scrubs.

One call raised the plight of a 21-year-old man, who is said to have been attacked by a number of prisoners, suffering injuries to his face. A second attack on him was attempted a couple of months later.

Another person contacted the Howard League because she was concerned for a prisoner who she said had gone six days without receiving his medication.

One prisoner called the charity to report that there were “blind spots” in the prison, not covered by CCTV, where prisoners were being beaten up.

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 Wormwood Scrubs inspection report can be found on the HM Inspectorate of Prisons website from Tuesday 12 April.


Rob Preece
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