The Howard League for Penal Reform has responded to Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons’ report on Hewell prison, published today (10 January 2017).
Inspectors visited Hewell in August and September 2016 and, while noting some improvements, they found that it remained a prison with “many challenges and areas of serious concern”.
Levels of self-injury had risen, and four prisoners had taken their own lives since the previous inspection, which had been conducted in July 2014. Inspectors found that the prison “had not applied itself with sufficient determination” to implement recommendations made by the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman following investigations into these tragedies.
The inspection found that first night arrangements for men arriving at the prison were chaotic, with staff overwhelmed and prisoners feeling unsafe.
Hewell’s segregation unit was found to be in a “terrible” state. Many cells around the prison were overcrowded or in a similarly poor condition. The inpatient facility in health care was adjudged to be very poor.
Inspectors found too many prisoners locked in their cells during the working day, but most had access to some learning and work opportunities.
Conditions were better at The Grange, an old country house linked to the main prison, which operates as an open prison holding 200 prisoners. Inspectors found that it was safe, respectful, and ensuring reasonably good regime and resettlement opportunities.
Andrew Neilson, Director of Campaigns at the Howard League for Penal Reform, said: “No one should be so desperate while in the care of the state that they take their own life.
“Four men had lost their lives to suicide in Hewell in the two years between this inspection and the previous one, and it is alarming that recommendations made to prevent further tragedies have not been implemented with sufficient rigour.
“Today’s report is the latest in a long line of inspections that make clear the need for urgent reform of the prison system. Allowing the prison population to grow unchecked while cutting resources has created a toxic mix of violence, death and human misery.
“Solving the problems behind bars will require bold action to stop sending so many people to these failing institutions, where they are swept away into deeper currents of crime.”
* Download the report on HMP Hewell here
* Howard League for Penal Reform http://howardleague.org/