The Chief Prison Inspector’s annual report has condemned overcrowded prisons which leave prisoners without rehabilitative prospects.
Of the men’s prisons inspected, only one a “good” outcome for purposeful activity, and only one for rehabilitation. 42% of prisoners said they were locked in their cells for in excess of 22 hours a day; only 38% of prisoners were able to visit the library once a week. The Inspector found “empty workshops, overgrown farms and gardens, broken greenhouses, and demotivated and disillusioned prisoners either locked in their cells or aimlessly stuck on the wing with nothing meaningful to do.”
In women’s prisons, a key issue remains mental health. Prisons provided “far too little support and care” for acutely mentally unwell women, and the abundant use of force to prevent self harm was “concerning”.
The Inspector was troubled by how few of previous recommendations had been achieved: “Over the last year I have consistently raised concerns that prisoners who have not had sufficient opportunities to becomeinvolved with education, training or work, and have spent their sentences languishing in their cells, are more likely to reoffend when they come out… I have become increasingly frustrated by prisons whose future plans are so vague that it is hard to see when progress is going to be made… As ever, it is the quality of leadership that makes the most difference.”
The Prison Reform Trust called the report “a depressing picture of too many prisoners spending too little time out of cell and engaged in purposeful activity, often housed in cramped and overcrowded accommodation which struggles to meet even basic standards of decency.”
The Howard League for Penal Reform said, “This important report lifts the lid on a prison system that has been overwhelmed and under-resourced, to the effect that it is failing to help people to move on from crime and rebuild their lives. The Chief Inspector raises the importance of leadership …What we now need to see is strong leadership from government to address the chronic issues afflicting the system”