Overcrowding and staff shortages at HMP Cardiff 

Prisoners can spend up to 27 hours in cell without clean clothes and bedding report finds


Prison cell at HMP Cardiff where men can spend up to 27 hours at a time. Image HM Inspectorate report

Holding 770 male adult prisoners, HMP Cardiff was originally designed for 539 men. Amid overcrowding and understaffing, the latest inspection report found cells in a poor state, increasing availability of drugs and rising violence.

Easy to get drugs

About half of prisoners said it was easy to get illegal drugs. Inspectors found the increased availability and use of new psychoactive substances (NPS) had led to “the inevitable increase in unpredictable and violent behaviour”

A quarter feel unsafe

There have been seven deaths at HMP Cardiff since the last inspection in 2013, including a murder and three suicides. About a quarter of prisoners reported feeling unsafe in the prison and recorded levels of assaults were high.

Staff shortages

Prisoners spend too much time locked in their cells the report shows. Some men were locked up for up to 27 hours and due to staff shortages, when out of their cells not enough of the men were engaged in purposeful activity.

Some cells were in a poor state, lacking basic necessities inspectors found: “There was poor availability of clean clothes and bedding and many prisoners had only one set of clothes, which was unacceptable.”

Mental health problems left unreported

Inspectors found an unusually high level of reported mental health problems. Whilst health care provision for those suffering from severe mental health issues was found to be generally good, the needs of those with lower level mental health problems were not being adequately met.

Responding to the report’s findings, Frances Crook, Chief Executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform, said:

“This report illustrates why we must reduce pressure on the prison system. Bold action is needed to stop throwing so many people into these failing institutions, where they are swept away into deeper currents of crime.”


Good staff prisoner relationships

Despite significant challenges, the report noted that the prison did not feel unstable, and staff prisoner relationships had been maintained.

“HMP & YOI Cardiff relied very heavily on a decent, hard-working staff group who had maintained good relationships with the men in their care, and had done well to keep the prison stable through some challenging times” said Peter Clarke, HM Chief Inspector of Prisons.

One Comment on “Overcrowding and staff shortages at HMP Cardiff ”

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