Levels of violence between prisoners and staff at HMP Woodhill were among the highest for any prison in England and Wales, according to the latest inspection report.
Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons (HMIP) found that more than 70% of men living in prison said that they had felt unsafe at some point during their time in the jail.
Woodhill houses some of the most dangerous offenders in the prison estate. The report found that rather than working to reduce reoffending, prisoners were locked in their cells for more than 21 hours per day.
Drug usage was also rampant, with 38% of men testing positive in random mandatory drug tests, the sixth highest rate in the country. Inspectors found that debt generated by the misuse of drugs was a major driver of violence and bullying. Rates of self-harm had increased dramatically since the last inspection in July 2022, up by nearly 40%.
The inspectorate said problems were exacerbated by a ‘critical shortage’ of prison officers, with even ‘basic parts of the prison regime’ not functioning due to a lack of staff, including inductions and cleaning.
The Chief Inspector of Prisons, Charlie Taylor said HMP Woodhill needs ‘a complete reset’.
In a statement he addressed failures at the prison: ‘Woodhill has a vital role in working with men convicted of serious crimes to reduce their future risk of harm to the public. The prison was fundamentally failing to deliver this, with only a third of prisoners telling us that their time at the jail was making them less likely to reoffend in the future.’
As reported by The Justice Gap, the prison had been placed under an ‘urgent notification’ earlier this year.
The Howard League for Panel Reform, the oldest penal reform charity in the world, has issued a response to a concerning report from His Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons on Woodhill prison.
Their Chief Executive, Andrea Coomber, sharply criticised the prison’s failure to provide a rehabilitative environment: ‘When people are sent to prison for serious offences, they must be given the support they need in an environment that will help them to turn their lives around and move on from crime.’
She also questioned the current government’s proposals to build additional prisons: ‘Why is the government pressing ahead with plans to build more prisons when it can’t safely run the jails it already has?’