UK: prison tensions risk boiling over as heatwave hits 'oven-like' jails

Tensions risk flaring up in Britain’s prisons as jails, notably those built in the Victorian-era, fail to cope with the heatwave, a charity has warned.

Cells have been described as “like ovens” as the UK looks set to see the mercury hit 86F (30C) for the third day running on Wednesday.

The conditions echo warnings from the official inspector of prisons, who said in October that ventilation was very poor in some jails.

The rocketing temperatures mean the government risks contravening United Nations (UN) rules on the treatment of inmates.

Windows in newer prisons often don’t open at all, while those in older jails, some dating back to the 1800s, are blocked by special mesh to prevent the use of so-called “lines” between cellmates and to help curb the use of drones.

The situation has led to agitation in at least one prison in recent days, a charity told HuffPost UK.

Eric Allison, a journalist and trustee of the Prisoners’ Advice Service, said: “I was speaking to somebody last week and they said the atmosphere in the prison was kicking off quite a lot - this is in a local jail - and he said it is always worse in hot weather. It’s pretty bad”.

They are like ovens, basically, and I say that from experience, and from recent conversations I’ve had with prisoners.
The prison system is in a state of meltdown, and that was before this heat,” Allison added.

HMPs Exeter, Durham and Wormwood Scrubs have all been criticised for dire conditions and lack of basic ventilation.

Prison Service rules demand wardens regularly assess conditions, including temperatures, to keep prisoners safe.

And the UN states natural and artificial ventilation must be provided in cells.

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