THE Howard League for Penal Reform has responded to HM Inspectorate of Prisons’ report on Wymott prison, published on Wednesday 3 April.

Inspectors visited the prison in Lancashire in December 2023, and found that high staff sickness rates resulted in there being too few officers available to provide a purposeful regime. Some men spent 21 hours locked inside their cells during the working day, and the regime at the weekends was poor for everyone.

Charlie Taylor, HM Chief Inspector of Prisons said: “The influx of drugs at Wymott remained a serious problem. It was a cause of debt that resulted in prisoners self-isolating and self-harming because of their fears of violence. There were limited resources available to keep drugs out of the prison with no scanners, systematic checks on staff or adequate technology to reduce the frequent arrival of contraband-laden drones over the large perimeter fence.”

Inspectors discovered that health care in the prison was not good enough, particularly the provision of mental health support. One in five men with mental health difficulties said that they had developed a problem with drugs since they arrived at Wymott.

Other problems highlighted in the report include accommodation in two house blocks being beyond repair, a workshop closed due to storm damage, and poor access to the library.

Andrew Neilson, Director of Campaigns at the Howard League for Penal Reform, said: “This awful report lays bare many of the problems that exist within the prison system today. Wymott is supposed to be a training prison, but acute staff shortages mean that men are being locked in their cells for 21 hours a day without the education, training and work experience they need to help them move on from crime. Those requiring mental health support are waiting months to be seen.

“In these circumstances, it is surely no surprise that drugs are rife. The best way to stop drugs getting into a prison is to reduce the demand for them, but that involves keeping men occupied in activities that Wymott seems unable to provide. This failure makes the prison less safe for everyone living and working there.

“These are serious problems that require serious solutions. As we approach a general election, it is ludicrous for politicians to be promising more prisons when there are insufficient staff to run the jails we already have.”

* Read the full report here.

* Source: Howard League for Penal Reform  and HM Inspectorate of Prisons