Woodhill Prison slammed by inspector over safety

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The safety of inmates at Woodhill has been slammed as simply “not good enough” in a report published this week by Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Prisons.

Five prisoners have committed suicide in the past two years and 40 per cent of all prisoners feel “victimised” by the jail’s own staff.

The report also reveals the number of assaults taking place is almost double that of other prisons. Similarly the number of inmates self-harming is disturbingly high and more prisoners are reporting that they feel unsafe.

The unannounced scrutiny came after previous inspections flagged up concerns at the multi million pound jail, which was built in 1992.

The report stated: ‘It would be true to say that our assessments of Woodhill at recent inspections describe a prison that is just adequate or satisfactory... There has been some improvement in the prison’s core approach to safety but outcomes were still not good enough, particularly for a core local prison.

It continued: ‘The number of self harm incidents was very high and almost double what we normally see in a local prison. Tragically five prisoners had taken their own lives in the prison since we last inspected.’

Though overall Woodhill was found to be a “respectful prison” many inmates complained of feeling victimised over debt, drugs, religion and ethnic background.

Lack of purposeful activity was another concern, with too little vocational training available, insufficient focus on employability skills and too many hours spent locked up in cells.

The report noted: ‘For most prisoners the amount of time out of cell had deteriorated considerably. The few prisoners who were fully employed could achieve just over nine hours unlocked per day but for others it was between four and six hours.’

Perhaps as a result the number of prisoner complaints was double that of comparative institutions.

The accommodation itself was described a clean and well-maintained and the wings were bright and spacious. But single cells occupied by two people were described as “too small and inadequately furnished.”

Now Woodhill, which holds some of the most disruptive prisoners in the country, has been given a list of improvements to carry out as soon as possible.

Already a new management team, including a new governor, is tackling the problems.

The full HM Chief Inspector’s report can be viewed on http://www.justice.gov.uk/downloads/publications/inspectorate-reports/hmipris/prison-and-yoi-inspections/woodhill/woodhill-2014.pdf