FOLLOWING AN UNANNOUNCED INSPECTION of HMP Exeter, the Chief Inspector of Prisons Charlie Taylor has written to the Secretary of State for Justice, Dominic Raab, invoking an Urgent Notification for the prison.

In a statement released on 18 November Charlie Taylor said: “Last week we completed an unannounced inspection of HMP Exeter which left us so concerned for the safety of those detained that we have written to the Secretary of State for Justice to invoke an Urgent Notification. This is the second consecutive Urgent Notification for Exeter – the first time we have had to do this for an adult prison.

“We previously issued an Urgent Notification for Exeter in 2018 when our inspectors found similar concerns about the safety of prisoners. Despite assurances from the then Secretary of State that improvements would be made, Exeter remains a dangerous place for those detained there. The rates of suicide and self-harm are the highest in England and Wales for this type of prison, and standards have also declined in health care.

“This situation is unprecedented and we expect immediate and urgent action to be taken. We look forward to hearing how the Secretary of State proposes to address our concerns.”

Commenting on this second Urgent Notification for HMP Exeter, Peter Dawson, director of the Prison Reform Trust said: “The human cost of our chronically overburdened prison system is laid bare by this damning report. Ten lives lost to suicide in four years. Time after time, the inspectorate describes prisons that do not keep people safe, and the same themes of chaos caused by overcrowding, inadequate staffing and permanent crisis management emerge. This wouldn’t be tolerated in any other public service, but ministers continue to pursue policies that pile the pressure on to a prison system that very plainly cannot cope. Exeter prison is a strategic and political failure just as much as an operational one.”

An Urgent Notification is a process invoked when inspectors are particularly concerned about outcomes for detainees. It requires them to write to the Secretary of State for Justice within seven calendar days of completing an inspection setting out their concerns. The Secretary of State then has 28 days to reply, setting out an action plan for improvement.

* Read the Urgent Notification letter to Dominic Raab here.

* Read the inspection debriefing paper here.

* Sources: HM Inspectorate of Prisons and Prison Reform Trust