Leicester prisoners left unaccounted for: The “chaos” of overcrowdingPosted: February 18, 2016
Drugs and violence rife amid deteriorating conditions
Prison staff did not always know where inmates were in violent, overcrowded prison, a damning report has revealed.
Inspectors made an unannounced visit to Leicester prison in September last year and found that conditions had deteriorated significantly since the last inspection. They described the regime there as “chaotic“.
At the time of inspection, the prison was holding 325 men – 50 per cent more than the number for which it was built.
Frances Crook, Chief Executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform, said: “This report sets out in stark detail the catastrophic impact of overcrowding in prisons. Violence is rife. Prisoners can get alcohol and legal highs easily, but they cannot get the basics, such as toiletries, clean clothes and bedding.
The reports’ key findings:
“Too many prisoners felt unsafe”
The report found levels of violence and intimidation were very high and not enough was done to make the prison safer.
- Level of assaults – three times that found in other local prisons
- Violent incidents left uninvestigated and processes for managing violent prisoners and victims – poorly implemented
- Risk of self-harm – more than five times the level found in other local prisons
- Use of force – more than double that of comparator prisons
“Drugs were easily available”
- Legal highs such as Mamba were found to be too readily available.
- Illicitly brewed alcohol was also identified to be a significant issue.
“Living conditions were poor and prisoners struggled to get basic items”
The report outlines that too many prisoners lived in dirty, overcrowded conditions:
- Many cells were grubby with too little furniture and dirty, scaled toilets.
- Prisoners struggled to get basic necessities such as toiletries, clothes and bedding.
“Prisoners had too little time unlocked.”
- Time out of cell was limited to about five hours 30 minutes a day for most prisoners but for those who were not in an activity it was as little as two hours 15 minutes.
- The regime was chaotic, with regular delays and interruptions.
- The quality of teaching and learning required improvement.
Last week, in the first speech by a Prime Minister on prisons in more than two decades, David Cameron recognised that the prison system is failing and that reform is needed.
Yet critics say without addressing sentencing to tackle the rising prison population, reform of prisons like Leicester, is destined to fail.
Frances Crook said: “Leicester is an old prison, built in the Victorian era, but the building alone is not to blame for these failures. A new prison overcrowded to this extent would have the same problems. We cannot go on cramming more people into jails without any thought for the consequences.”
— BBC Radio 4 Today (@BBCr4today) February 17, 2016