Over a third of prisoners at Wormwood Scrubs feel unsafe as levels of violence rise, reports watchdog

Over a third of prisoners at Wormwood Scrubs currently feel unsafe, according to the latest inspection which highlights ‘the intractability and persistence of failure’ at the prison. The report by the chief prisons inspector Peter Clarke into, what he calls, the ‘iconic prison’ based in West London which holds 1,227 men noted that outcomes for prisoners were ‘not good enough in any of our assessments’.

The latest inspection follows visits in December 2015 and May 2014 and on both occasions the watchdog raised ‘very serious concerns’. ‘The prison was still not safe enough, with high levels of often serious violence,’ Clarke wrote in the report published today; adding that it ‘would be wrong to say that there had been no work to try to improve the situation’.

According to the report, about two-thirds of prisoners said that they had felt unsafe at the prison at some time (65{3234d8c1bc8391a7e63ebaf7e32c90a4a5b2a92b92485c9509211683c01cefb1})), and over a third that they currently felt unsafe (36{3234d8c1bc8391a7e63ebaf7e32c90a4a5b2a92b92485c9509211683c01cefb1}). Levels of violence were ‘high and much of it was serious’ including a dramatic increase in assaults against staff.

There had been three self-inflicted deaths since the inspectorate’s last visit. ‘[Too] many men were locked up for significant periods of the day, often as long as 23 hours,’ the report continued. Resettlement and offender management work was ‘fundamentally failing.

There had been over 90 assaults on staff in the six months prior to inspection, and well over 200 assaults. Clarke noted that both figures were ‘much higher than we usually see’. ‘The frequency of assaults on staff had increased dramatically, and was far higher than at the time of the previous inspection,’ he added.

Prisoners were more negative about ‘virtually every aspect of daily life’ than other prisoners. ‘Efforts had been made to paint the wings and cells since the previous inspection but there was still too much grime in communal areas and a lot of graffiti in cells, and many toilets were filthy. Showers were dilapidated and lacked privacy. There were problems with the maintenance services contract and many repairs were outstanding, and numerous cell windows, showers and telephones had been broken for many months. Outside areas were strewn with litter, and despite efforts to address the vermin problem, rats and cockroaches persisted.’

Author: Jon Robins

Jon is editor of the Justice Gap. He is a freelance journalist. Jon’s books include The First Miscarriage of Justice (Waterside Press, 2014), The Justice Gap (LAG, 2009) and People Power (Daily Telegraph/LawPack, 2008). Jon is a journalism lecturer at Winchester University and a visiting senior fellow in access to justice at the University of Lincoln. He is twice winner of the Bar Council’s journalism award (2015 and 2005) and is shortlisted for this year’s Criminal Justice Alliance’s journalism award

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