‘An inmate was left with a nail in his head’: Harrowing stories of Wandsworth prison conditions exposed

A former prison chaplain has come forward to expose the “inhumane” conditions at HM Wandsworth Prison, where one prisoner was left for weeks with a “nail in his head” and some inmates are locked up for as long as 23 hours a day.

Liz Bridge – a former volunteer prison chaplain – spoke to Channel 4 News for an exclusive investigation into the prison which aired last Wednesday.

She said: “The basement runs with rats and the sewage water comes up. 

“I knew men who were in the same clothes for two or three weeks and couldn’t get a kit change.

“People who are not mentally ill are locked in a cell for 23-hours-a-day with people who are mentally ill. That’s not a way to improve anybody’s health.”

Liz Bridge speaking with Channel 4 News about the conditions of Wandsworth Prison (Picture: Channel 4 News)

Last month Ms Bridge was banned from volunteering at any prison for five years after she was found giving vulnerable inmates small amounts of money. She gave £15 and £30 to a number of prisoners.

She said: “These were men who were going to leave homeless and were frightened about how they would cope. 

“One of them I had seen cut down from attempting to hang himself, one was a very serious self-harmer. I was told that I had put the prison at risk.”

The Victorian prison is built for about 950 men but is currently home to more than 1,600.

MP for Tooting, Dr Rosena Allin-Khan, said: “This is about basic human rights. In Wandsworth we have a lot of people awaiting trial. 

“People deserve to have dignity and be rehabilitated.”

In one shocking case, Ms Allin-Khan recalled an inmate who had been left “for many weeks” with a nail in his head. The inmate suffered from mental health issues and the injury was self-inflicted, she said, but he has still not received a mental health assessment.

This follows a report on HMP Wandsworth, published in October 2023, which found the prison to be “unsafe and inhumane”.

A cell at HMP Wandsworth in 2022 (Picture: HM Inspectorate of Prisons)

During the period June 2022 to May 2023, the Independent Monitoring Board (IMB) of HMP Wandsworth found the shortage of available staff “seriously undermined” the ability of the prison to function effectively.

Speaking to the South London Press after the report was published, Ms Allin-Khan, said: “There was a night shift which had only seven people turn up for 1,500 inmates and the way they made up the shortfall was by requesting that people who had already worked did extra shifts.”

The report revealed assaults in the prison rose by more than 20 per cent in all areas, with an average of more than 10 assaults on staff per week.

In G and H wings there were only 11 shower stalls for 265 men, and regular flooding in cells “disrupted whole wings”.

A Prison Service spokesman said: “We are taking decisive action to improve safety and conditions at HMP Wandsworth including boosting staffing levels and investing millions into upgrades such as rolling out new CCTV, installing new windows and repairing roofs and refurbishing healthcare facilities.

“Cells are only doubled up where it is safe to do so and our £100million security crackdown is also helping significantly reduce the number of assaults in our jails.”

Pictured top: HMP Wandsworth (Picture: PA)

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