Wandsworth prison conditions ‘unsafe and inhumane’, report finds

A new report on HMP Wandsworth, where prisoner Daniel Khalife managed to escape from last month, has found it to be “unsafe and inhumane”.

The Independent Monitoring Board (IMB) of HMP Wandsworth said conditions in the prison reflected the “failures of the prison system as a whole” in its annual report.

During the period June 2022 to May 2023, the IMB found that the shortage of available staff “seriously undermined” the ability of the prison to function effectively.

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

The percentage of available officers during the reporting period rarely reached above 50 per cent.

Last month, in the wake of Mr Khalife’s prison break, the MP for Tooting, Dr Rosena Allin-Khan, told the South London Press that there had been an “erosion of resources and staffing” in the past 13 years at Wandsworth prison.

“There was a night shift in December which had only seven people turn up for the shift for 1,500 inmates and the way they made up the shortfall was by requesting that people who had already worked did extra shifts,” she said.

“There was also a period where the prison was without running water for six days. Those are extremely unsanitary conditions to be an inmate but also in which to work.”

Assaults in the prison rose by more than 20 per cent in all areas. On average there were more than 10 assaults on staff per week.

The conditions remain “inhumane”, with serious overcrowding in Victorian buildings where the fabric continues to deteriorate.

The prison repeatedly had no heating or hot water during the winter months.

In G and H wings there were only 11 shower stalls for 265 men, who all wanted showers in the very limited time available to them.

Regular flooding of cells was reported, which “disrupted whole wings”.

The provision of kit had improved but it was still “far from satisfactory,” with men often enduring several weeks without a full kit change.

The report also found access to contraband through a variety of methods, including drones, continued to appear easy, cell searches found 330 mobile phones and 1,900 litres of illicitly brewed alcohol.

IMB chairman Tim Aikens said: “Recent events at Wandsworth have demonstrated the shortcomings of the prison system that the IMB has been highlighting repeatedly for many years.

“Prisoners are being failed and most have a severely reduced chance of rehabilitation upon release.

“We are told there is significant investment in the prison system, but we see little evidence of this in Wandsworth.”

A Prison Service spokeswoman said: “We have already taken decisive action to address the serious issues raised in this report, with frontline staffing having increased by almost a quarter in the last six years and investing millions into security upgrades at the prison.

“This includes spending more than £8million to roll out new CCTV and putting in place tougher gate security, with dogs working alongside specialist staff.

“We have also installed new windows, repaired roofs and refurbished healthcare facilities to significantly improve conditions.”

Pictured top: HMP Wandsworth (Picture: PA)

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