Variation in the capacity of the prison facilities
a decrease of 1.2 %
The total capacity of the prison system, as of 31 December 2017, is 75,545.
A ‘mega-prison’ at Full Sutton was in the final phase of construction. The future prison had been criticised. More than 50 letters of complaints were sent to the builder. The opponents believed that the construction was incompatible with the local sewer system and was creating excessive light and sound pollution. Residents were worried about the repercussions on the reputation of their town as well as their safety.
Morton Hall prison would reopen in December. Having been used a centre for immigration services, it should be used as a prison for male foreign national offenders, the third prison of its kind.
Four so-called “green” prisons were being built in the United Kingdom with recycled materials and being equipped with technologies aimed at reducing their ecological footprint. Green spaces were presented as key elements in the construction projects: “Our evidence shows clear and demonstrable benefits from the presence of green space for prisoners in all categories of prison”.
Andrew Neilson, the campaign director for the Howard League for Penal Reform said: “Everyone should do their bit to protect the world we live in, but it would be far better for the environment if the prisons were not built at all”. He refer to these new green prisons as “a twist from the Ministry of Justice”.
The ISG, Kier, Laing O’Rourke and Wates construction firms would be coming together under the name of “Alliance 4 New Prisons” to build four prisons. The project was an initiative of the Ministry of Justice and would benefit from a budget of four billion pounds sterling ($5.53 billion). Each prison would have the capacity to hold between 1,400 and 1,800 prisoners. The goal is to increase the capacity of the prison estate by 18,000.
Suicide prevention policies are implemented
Suicide prevention is obligatory in all facilities. This takes the form of a procedure named Assessment, Care in Custody and Teamwork (ACCT).1 The Howard League, in its 2016 report on the prevention of suicide in prison, highlights that “these procedures depend on good relationships between staff and prisoners, and on the efficiency of communication between members of staff”. The report also emphasises that: “the prison administration must not rely on the ACCT to flag and support every prisoner presenting a risk of suicide. Of the 89 prisoners who took their own lives in 2015, less than half (35) were subject to ACCT monitoring at the time of death”.2
Ministry of Justice, PSI publication 64/2011 on protection measures in detention, p. 26. ↩
The number of self-harm incidents rose by 47 % among female prisoners between April and June. The increase was 20 % for young offenders over the same period. This increase was 8 % among men. This phenomenon coincides with an increasingly severe detention system used to reduce the risks of COVID-19 transmission. Some observers were worried about the consequences of such measures and the “devastating impacts” on the mental health of prisoners. The government announced that it was making more of an effort. It said that almost 25,000 professionals were being trained in suicide and self-harm prevention.
Total number of prisoners
England and Wales had 78,756 prisoners, a number that quadrupled between 1900 and 2018. It was estimated that there would be 98,700 by 2026.
Elderly prisoners (≥60 years)
- 60 to 70: 3,299
- 70 and over: 1,733
The number of elderly prisoners increased by 3 % compared to the previous year. The were 4,884 elderly prisoners as of 31 December 2017.
In September, Risley prison had 77 prisoners aged 60 or older. This represented 8.2% of the prison population, the highest proportion recorded since 2015. The high number of older persons in prison affected the number of deaths. Caroline Abrahams, director of Age UK, explained: “Our population is aging, and so inevitably this is reflected in the numbers of older persons living, and dying, in prisons.”
The number of prisoners over age 60 tripled in the previous two decades. Deaths from natural causes rose by 77 % in ten years, 218 of them occurred during the 2019-2020 period. Of these, 22 were due to COVID-19.
Specific activities are planned for minors and vary depending on the establishment. As a general rule there is more emphasis on professional or academic training (English and mathslessons). Secure training and childcare centres must guarantee children 30 hours weekly education and training.
Lessons reflect those given in schools. One of the rules of Young Offender Institutions, implemented in 2000, (YOI Rules 2000) specifies that institutions must help young prisoners to reintegrate by “suggesting a programme of activities, including teaching, training and work enabling offenders to acquire or develop a sense of responsibility, self-discipline, physical health, interests and skills and to find, when released, a job that suits them.”
The majority of education is provided by private, profit making, companies.
Education contracts at Young Offender Institutions last for five years. They are managed by the Education & Skills Funding Agency. Their funding ranges from between £38 million to £60 million.
Young offenders at Cookham Wood did not spend enough time outside of their cells, only four and a half hours a day during the week and two hours on the week-ends. Most of them would get only 12 hours of schooling per week. A youth custody service spokesperson at the Ministry of Justice explained that “access to education and time out of cells would increase as we lift the remaining pandemic restrictions, which saved thousands of lives”.
Addicts receive special follow-ups. They are examined within five days of admission to prison. They can be placed in a special unit if there is one available. Nicotine and opiate therapies and substitutes are offered in most facilities. The prisoner may be transferred if necessary.
Some 75,000 out of 156,000 people on probation would have used drugs “problematically” during the 2019-2020 period. Only 3,000 of them sought drug treatment. The quality of this service was said to be mediocre. Prisoners who were treated while in detention had their treatments stopped upon release. A government spokesperson said: “We have recently invested an extra £80m to expand community drug treatment services in England.”
Prisoners can smoke
As of January 2019, prison facilities have become smoke free institutions. However, electronic cigarettes are allowed.1
A smoke ban was put in place in 2017 in English and Welsh prisons. Two researchers launched a study on the effects of this ban. The aim of purifying the air has been achieved and no riot took place, as the authorities feared. However, an illegal market developed, with important consequences: the price of cigarettes rose from 10 to 500 pounds and drugs previously mixed with tobacco have begun to be consumed pure. This resulted in debts and increased consumption.
Guards are inadequately trained in caring for people with mental health disorders.
Neuro-psychological problems were not well identified, according to three inspectorates who were mandated by the Ministry of Justice. According to a report submitted, most of the prison personnel was not trained in how to provide support to prisoners with such problems (autism-spectrum disorders, learning disabilities, dyslexia, attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), acquired brain injury). A pilot project was announced in June for Bristol, Lincoln, New Hall, Swaleside and Berwyn prisons to improve the identification of neuro-psychological issues and ensure tailored support was provided by specialist teachers.
At the National Health Service request, the Centre for Mental Health called for better training on mental health for prison staff. The report it published, The Future of Prison Mental Health Care in England, also criticised the quarantine practices carried out during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Generally, people suffering from mental health disorder are not held in special facilities butsome prisons do have such. Severely mentally unwell prisoners may be admitted to them. Otherwise, they are transferred to another institution or hospitalised.
At the National Health System’s request, the Centre for Mental Health stated in a report on mental health that 45 % of prisoners suffered from anxiety or depression, that 8 % had psychosis and that 60 % had had a traumatic brain injury. The number of suicides, self-harm and violent acts reached a record high over the previous few years. The report pointed to disparities in providing care from one prison to another.
The phones are located
- in the corridors
- in the cell
Telephones are now present in the cells of some facilities. The cost is lower and it makes family ties easier.1 In 2018, the British government announces, a seven million pound plan to expand the installation of phones in cells. The plan also includes the installation of digital kiosks for making visit requests and other similar tasks.
The government indicated that all closed women’s prisons had telephones in their cells from then.
Prisoners are allowed to receive parcels
Relatives or family members of prisoners are no longer allowed to send objects to them by post or during visits. 1 Exceptional authorisation may be granted. Before purchasing or sending any object, relatives are required to obtain authorisation from prison staff.2
Families and friends of prisoners would be allowed to send them books directly. The Ministry of Justice confirmed this possibility after several complaints were sent to Inside Time. Some prisoners said they were told that they could only buy books from approved retailers. The Prison Service wrote to all prison directors in July to remind them of this rule which is nationwide.
Prisoners are allowed to receive visits from their children or minor relatives
Facilities are required to provide children with adapted equipment and games. Special visits are sometimes authorised in certain facilities for family events.1
Department of Justice, circulaire PSI 16/2011 on Visits and Visitor Services. ↩
The Nepacs charity helped children stay in contact with their parents in prison. Prisoners who maintained relationships with their loved ones were 40 % less likely to reoffend. It seems that looking after your children’s needs helped break the cycle of crime in families.
Children under 11 years of age were allowed to have physical contact with the person they would visit. People from two different households were allowed to visit a prisoner together.
All prisoners have the right to receive visits
Prison Rule 35 requires prisoners to have a one-hour visit twice a month. At least one of these visits must take place on weekends. The warden may temporarily suspend this right when the person is placed in solitary confinement and when theyconsider that the behaviour of the person requires it.1
A person in pre-trial detention may receive “as many visits as they wish within such limits and under such conditions as the Secretary of State may prescribe, either generally or in any particular case” (Prison Rule 35).
The suspension of visits due to COVID-19 health restrictions resulted in stress and anxiety among prisoners. The organisation Pets as Therapy provided 24 prisons with dogs to help diffuse the harmful effects. One prisoner attested to the positive impact and said it helped him “look forward”.
Some prisoners had only one or two visits during the COVID-19 pandemic. The video call system was fully deployed nine months after the pandemic began and calls were limited to 30 minutes per month. This situation was highly criticised. Family support networks for incarcerated people stated that close to 300,000 children of British prisoners had been “forgotten” during the pandemic. Lawyer Jake Richards estimated that the “lack of mitigating measures” constituted a breach of privacy and family rights guaranteed by the European Convention on Human Rights.
Prisoners have access to computers
in some facilities
Prisoners in Guernsey Prison may have computers in their cells, not connected to the Internet.
The Ministry of Justice said that nine prisons would receive computers and tablets between July 2021 and March 2022. The prisons concerned were: Lindholme, Ranby, Stoke Heath Garth, The Mount, Swaleside, Erlestoke, Styal, New Hall. Berwyn and Wayland prisons would also have their technology upgraded. All Young Offender Institutions – YOI would also be upgraded before Spring 2022. Landline telephones would be installed in the cells of 16 other facilities.
Authority(ies) in charge of education and vocational training
Her Majesty’s Prison & Probation Service (HMPPS)
Teaching personnel were not happy with their work conditions. Seven out of ten educators wanted to leave their jobs within five years. They were unhappy with their pay, lack of progression routes in their career and the lack of support from prison administration.
Part of the prisoner's food is produced by the prison
Two bee hives were donated to Guernesey prison by the apiculture association. Prisoners would take care of the hives and the reshaping of the gardens. Seven prisoners took an eight-week apiculture course; the honey produced would be eaten in the prison and any leftover sold. The income earned from the sales would be handed over to an organisation that promoted learning called Clip.
Dartmoor prison was awarded the 2021 prize for the ‘best kept prison garden’ in England and Wales“. The trophy was awarded by Prison Service and the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS). Dartmoor prison was partially self-sufficient because of its vegetable production in this garden. The Windlesham Trophy, awarded for the first time in 1983, is presented every year by RHS.
Prisoners can buy food products
Prisoners can buy food products from canteens by filling out an order form. 1
For at least 18 months, HMP Parc did not provide fruit or vegetables for canteens. Only snacks, chocolate bars and candy were available. Administration blamed the supplier for the problem. One prisoner said that in reality, this was intentional and recalled an officer saying that fruit and vegetables were banned for security reasons. Authorities denied this was the case and said that vegetables had not been offered because there was no way of cooking them in prison.
Assignment of transgender prisoners to a specific facility depends on
their own identification
“All transgender prisoners must be supported to express which gender they identify as in court”1
This is not always necessary. It is possible to override gender self-identification if there is a lack of evidence and / or an identified risk to the individual (the individual is placed in a location which may not correspond to the gender of which they identify). The decision must be based on clear criteria and deemed to take into account the safety of the prisoner and of other prisoners. The Ministry of Justice believes that “regardless of where prisoners are held, they should be respected in the gender in which they identify, being provided with those items that enable their gender expression”“ 2:
National Offender Management Service,“The Care and Management of Transgender Offenders”, instructions from the 1 January 2017 about the care and management of transgender prisoners p.11. ↩
Department of Justice, “Review on the Care and Management of Transgender Offenders”, December 2015, p. 5-6. ↩
On 2 July, the High Court once again upheld that female transgender prisoners be sent to prisons for women.
This decision was the result of a complaint filed by a female prisoner who said she was sexually assaulted in Downview prison by a trans female prisoner serving time for rape. The plaintiff claimed that the Ministry of Justice policy on the care and management of trans prisoners discriminated against cis women.
This complaint was a textbook case and “tested the bounds of the Equality Act” which prohibited all forms of discrimination but allowed for certain exemptions. The High Court, in its understanding of the concerns raised by the claimant, concluded that “the trans-inclusive policies are ‘capable of being operated lawfully, and in a manner which does not involve unjustified or disproportionate interference with the Convention rights of women prisoners’ “. It added that individual cases may represent challenges but did not make the policies unlawful. There were 130 trans female prisoners in the United Kingdom to that date and eleven of them were in prisons for women.
Trans prisoners granted a Gender Recognition Certificate (GRC) were automatically sent to a prison appropriate to their gender. Transgender prisoners who did not have a GRC would initially be treated according to their legally recognised gender. They might be transferred to a different prison on a case-by-case basis. This policy was upheld by the High Court in the summer of 2021.
The Youth Custody Service (YCS) decides where people under the age of 18 should be placed. A minor in custody may be placed in a young offender’s institution (YOI), in a secure training centre (STC) or in a secure children’s home (SCH). The individual circumstances and possible risks of each young person are taken into account when deciding on a placement. Girls under the age of 18 are placed either in an STC or SCH.
Both public and private young offender institutions (YOI) accommodate boys between the ages of 15 to 21. The operational capacity at these facilities varies from between 60 to 400 people (30 to 60 people per unit). There are 5 YOI centres:
- Cookham Wood prison (Rochester, Kent):operational capacity (OC) of 188 places
- Feltham prison (Middlesex): OC of 180 places
- Parc prison (Bridgend): OC of 60 places. Private management (provider: G4S)
- Werrington prison (West Yorkshire): OC of 118
- Wetherby prison (West Yorkshire): OC of 288 places [^operational]
Public and private secure training centres (STC), are institutions for minors up to the age of 17. They generally include girls over the age of 12 and boys between the ages of 12 to 14. If boys are considered to be vulnerable, after assessment, they can be placed in an STC until the age of 17. These typically accommodate between 50 to 80 people (5 to 8 people per unit). There are three STCs:
- Medway (Rochester, Kent): OC of 67 girls and boys
- Oakhill (Milton Keynes): OC of 80 boys. Private management (provider: G4S)
- Rainsbrook (Rugby): OC of 76 girls and boys. Private management (provider: MTCnovo)1
Secure Children’s Homes (SCH) accommodate minors aged between 10 and 14. These centres do not belong to the prison administration but are managed by local authorities. They can accommodate 8 to 40 children[^Estate]. There are 15 SCHs. Ofsted, rather than HM Inspectorate of Prisons inspects SCHs in England and the Care and Social services with Estyn inspects SCHs in Wales (Estyn) 2.
Boys between the ages of 15 and 17 with complex needs can be placed in the Keppel unit of Wetherby Prison. These complex needs include “(among others) high risk to self and/ or others, physical or mental health needs, learning disabilities, communication needs and substance misuse“. The Keppel Unit has 48 places. It provides on-site teaching and care and has a team trained to work with “young people deemed to have comple needs”. 3:
Young pregnant women, or young mothers with a child under the age of 18 months can be placed in a Mother-Baby unit.
HM Inspectorate of Prisons, “Children in Custody 2017–18: An analysis of 12–18-year-olds’ perceptions of their experiences in secure training centres and young offender institutions (Analysis of experiences of young people from 12 to 18 years placed in STC and YOI)”, 2019, p. 16. ↩
HM Inspectorate of Prisons, “Children in Custody 2017–18: An analysis of 12–18-year-olds’ perceptions of their experiences in secure training centres and young offender institutions (Analysis of experiences of young people from 12 to 18 years placed in STC and YOI)”, 2019, p. 14. ↩
HM Prison & Probation Service and Youth Custody Service, “Guidance for the placement of young people with complex needs” 2012, p. 3. ↩
“Widespread failings” were identified at the Oakhill youth centre according to an HMP report. These have had “a significant impact on the care and wellbeing of the children held there”. The youth would be kept in their cells for hours at a time every day. On average, this could amount to 19 hours a day between mid-July and mid-October. On some days, it could add up to 23. The lack of ventilation during the summer months was pointed out. Acts of violence were up. The visit highlighted very poor day-to-day experience and a “chaotic” organisation. Oakhill centre, a secure training centre, has been run entirely privately and managed by the G4S firm. The Howard League responded to the report by stating: The Howard League opposed the creation of secure training centres in the 1990s. In the decades since, hundreds of boys and girls have been harmed and abused while private companies have profited from their misery. This report on Oakhill should be the final straw. It is time to close the secure training centres (…)“. A spokesperson for Oakhill said that the teams had lacked staff because of the pandemic. He indicated that conditions had improved since the report.
Statistics from the Department of Justice demonstrate that the proportion of black prisoners declined over the last decade. There was an 11% decrease of black women in prisons during these years and a 2% decrease of black males. Whilst the proportion of white men did not change during this period, there was a 12% increase in the number of white women. [^Stat]
The average length of sentences varies considerably among ethnic groups. 1 Sentences served by white prisoners are shorter (by 18 months) than that of other groups. Ethnic groups with the longest average length of detention are Asian (27 months), followed by Black (26 months) and Mixed Raced (22 months) offenders. Men, women and children of these groups tend to be given longer sentences.
The ethnic groups mentioned above are listed in official UK government statistics. ↩
The percentage of Blacks increased among the youth placed in remand in London. Between 2020 and 2021, it went from 60 % to 74 %, while Black people represented 13 % of the London population. This disproportion also affects visible minorities. According to the Transform Justice NGO almost nine out of ten young offenders (88 %) sent to remand in London were Black or from a visible minority. This percentage remained at 57% in the rest of England and Wales. The director of Transform Justice explained: “It’s probably the highest disproportionality rate that I’ve seen in the whole of the criminal justice system. We’re talking about children who have not been convicted of a crime, and may never be convicted.”
Many gender-specific needs of women are not taken into account in the prison administration. However others are: such as gynaecological consultations and the provision of hygiene products.
Support given for women who are victims of domestic violence or sexual violence is not adequate.1
Department of Justice, “Statistics on Women and the Criminal Justice System 2017 - 2017 Statistics on Women and Criminal Justice “, November 2018, p. 4. ↩
Following a visit in May 2021, the HMP praised those responsible for Send prison for allowing intimate relationships between its residents: “Relationships between women were managed sensitively and maturely. The prison’s safety intervention meeting reviewed known intimate relationships between women weekly; where appropriate, couples could live on the same unit and work together.”
Incidents of self-harm among female prisoners in England and Wales rose by 8 % in one year. The incidence was less among men, at about 7 %. The Prison Reform Trust lambasted the government for failing to meet almost half of the pledges made in 2018 as part of its “Female Offender Strategy”. The organisation also deplored the construction of 500 new cells in women’s prisons, a decision that went against the strategy announced, to reduce the female population in prison.
Three former female prisoners appeared before a Commons Justice Committee and described their life in a prison for women. They reported the practice of transfers for no reason and called for prisoners to be given free telephone credits to contact loved ones. One of them complained about the lack of opportunities for rehabilitation and pointed out the lack of psychological support while in prison.
Issues of mental health and self-harm have shown a 24% rise in acts of self-harm among female prisoners. The increase is due mainly to the suspension of visits because of the COVID-19 pandemic, which is leaving women isolated and unable to see their children.
Childbirth takes place in
external care facilities
In the last couple of years, two women gave birth in their cells and their babies died. One of them was 18 years old and was being held in remand.
Pregnant women receive proper prenatal care
The NHS (National Health Service) is required to provide the same level of prenatal care to prisoners as it does to the public. According to Jenny North, of the Maternity Alliance, “Antenatal clinics and classes may be held on site in prisons, but more complex care - such as obstetric consultations and ultrasound scans - is usually delivered outside the prison.” 1
Jenny North, “Gettingit right? Services for pregnantwomen, new mothers, and babies in prison “, 2013, p. 2. ↩
One woman described her pregnancy while in prison. She reported: “pregnant people don’t get any nutritional support in prison, or extra food. The food in prison was unhealthy, unhygienic (sometimes there was dirt on the potatoes, and there’s no fresh vegetables. I struggled a lot with nausea as my pregnancy progressed, and the food made me sick. (…) I was so hungry.” She also denounced the lack of proper medical attention. This testimony was part of the campaign conducted by the three organisations Level Up, Birth Companions and Women in Prison to put an end to sentencing pregnant women to prison.
Number of visits made by the NPM during the year
The chief inspector of prisons visited Wormwood Scrubs prison in 2019 and in 2021. He indicated that prison conditions were only slightly improved. He said he was concerned about the 118 prisoners who lived in cramped conditions. However, he praised the introduction of telephones in the cells to help inmates stay in contact with loved ones.
The Chief Inspector of Prisons announced the full resumption of inspections 14 months after they were suspended due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Number of deaths attributed to suicide
A 48 year-old man was found hanged on 2 May at Durham prison. He had a history of serious mental health issues and had recently self-harmed. This was the sixth suicide in this prison since January 2019. Prison staff was criticised for failing to realise the risk of suicide. The chief inspector of prisons had expressed his concern in August 2019.
The rules in force (PSI publication 32/2011 on ensuring equality) ensure protection against discrimination, harassment, sexual or other, and victimisation. The legislation concerns staff, prisoners, and any person acting in prison.
More than 1,600 men were compensated for physical abuse they endured at Medomsley prison (Durham County), between 1960 and 1980, with a total of seven million sterling pounds. Five prison officers were convicted for their part in the abuse in 2019.
Medowsley prison housed teenagers who had committed minor crimes until 1988, the year it closed. A spokesperson for the Ministry of Justice said “our deepest sympathies remain with those who suffered abuse at Medowsley”.
Prisoners can be assisted by a lawyer throughout their incarceration
In 2013, the Secretary of State for Justice stopped the provision of legal aid. The Howard League and the Prisoner’s Advice Service submitted an appeal to the Court of Appeal. In February 2018, the Court of Appeal decided to reintroduce legal aid in three cases:
Lawyers providing legal aid to prisoners who appear before the Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC) did not see their pay increase since 1996 – which is £45 an hour. Law firms operated at a loss and fewer of them were taking on the work.
The PSI publication 32/2011 on ensuring equality provides protection against discrimination, harassment, sexual or otherwise, and victimisation. It also concerns violence between prisoners.
A male prison officer was sent to jail for committing sex acts while on duty at Low Centre between 2011 and 2016. He used his position of power to “extract or encourage” female prisoners to perform sex acts. A dozen women were affected.
Policies for prevention of radicalisation been implemented. The concerned prisoners must be, since 2017, placed in “separation centers” located within prisons. The placement of these is the responsibility of the Secretary of State.1
The Security, Order and Counter Terrorism directorate (SOCT) assists the prison administration in preventing radicalisation. In April 2017, the Minister of State for Prisons established, a Joint Extremism Unit. It gathers and analyses the intelligence of around 100 counter-terrorism specialists.
The prevention policy includes the training of 13,000 prison officers. It is designed to “respond to the challenges posed by extremism”, improve the evaluation of chaplains, and eliminate “extremist writers“.2
A publication on dealing with and reporting extremist behaviour is addressed to staff members. (PSI publication 43/2011).It is confidential.
Two murders were committed and several people were wounded following the parole of two prisoners held on terrorism charges. A training module for staff who work with terrorist offenders was added to the training of prison officers. The Ministry of Justice awarded a contract of £150,000 ($212,301) to the Minerva Advisory Group run by a veteran of the reconstruction and humanitarian program in Iraq. The government was also seeking another organisation to create an e-training course for all prison staff.
One-third of the 28 places reserved for prisoners “considered likely to radicalise others” were occupied. These were located in “Separation Centres”, specially assigned areas inside prisons, sometimes known as “prisons within prison”. The Ministry of Justice indicated it wanted to increase the use of these centres. One prisoner out of the five held in the Frankland prison separation centre would be expected to want to be de-radicalised.
Prisoners and visitors can meet without physical barriers
A separation device may be imposed during a visit to prevent the introduction of forbidden products or other facts that could jeopardise “the good order and control of the facility”1.
The planned launch of a COVID-19 testing programme would quickly allow incarcerated people to hug their loved ones. Prisoners and adult visitors were to be tested before entering the visiting room. If the results were negative, physical contact would be allowed. Nottingham Prison would be the first to pilot this programme.
All prisoners are entitled to spend at least one hour a day in the open air
The amount of time spent outdoors varies from one facility to another. It is often about 30 minutes, despite the rule being one hour (Prison Rule 30). The administration uses weather conditions and the need for order and discipline to limit time spent outdoors.1
The Inspectorate of Prisons observed this limited period and deplored the fact that inmates have to choose between this exercise and other necessities (shower, phone call, etc.). They noted that many outside excercise areas remained austere, dirty and uninviting.2
The daily routine of people incarcerated at Forest Bank was upset by the COVID-19 pandemic. Prisoners would spend 23 hours a day in their cells, “with time on the exercise yard limited to just 30 minutes”. It was reported that they had all been given televisions and that in-cell bingo games had been organised to help them pass the time.
The president of the Prison Governors’ Association said that lockdown freedoms need to be extended to prisoners. She warned there would be a “significant kickback” if prisoners were forced to spend up to 23 hours a day in their cell while Covid-19-linked restrictions were easing in the rest of the country. Prisoners were at the time only allowed to leave their cells for certain education and training sessions and visits from outside were “limited”.
At Exeter prison, inmates were forced to isolate continuously, 24/7, due to a wave of coronavirus infections in the facility. The prisoner’s families were worried about the mental and physical health of their loved ones. They denounced, among other things, the lack of access to showers for consecutive days, food that lacks in quality and quantity, as well as the accumulation of rubbish in cells. Symptomatic prisoners or those in contact with symptomatic prisoners at Moorlands prison were forced to self-isolate. They were not allowed to leave their cells to shower or exercise outside.
On placement into a cell, staff must take into account “any risk of mistreatment by or on behalf of the newcomer to other prisoners, and any risk of suicide or self-harm”. All prisoners held in closed prisons will undergo a Cell Sharing Risk Assessment (CSRA). This evaluation is obligatory, wether in a shared space or not. The CSRA is also a part of the admission process. It must assess the risk that a prisoner might “kill his fellow prisoner or commit acts of serious violence against him”.1
Ministry of Justice, PSI publication 20/2015 on the Cell Sharing Risk Assessment process. ↩
Annual figures from the Justice Ministry showed that the number of self-harm events in 2020 is one of the highest ever recorded. Compared to 2019, there was a difference between men (- 13 %) and women (+ 13 %). This increase has led the House of Commons Justice Committee to launch an inquiry into the mental health situation in prison and the effects of long periods of isolation related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Number of violent acts against prison staff
Around 10% of the violent episodes are serious assaults.The number of agressions increased by 29% compared to the previous year.
Chief Inspector of Prisons, Charlie Taylor, indicated that the COVID-19 pandemic had placed Bedford prison “under considerable pressure”. Close to 20% of prisoners tested positive in February and “a large proportion of staff” had been absent. There were more assaults between prisoners and on staff than in other prisons.
Sentence adjustments can be granted during the incarceration
Indeterminate Sentence for Public Protection, see the Specific Populations section, Life Imprisonment category. ↩
The period of unconditional imprisonment (tariff) is the minimum length of time a prisoner sentenced to an IPP must remain incarcerated ↩
Charlie Taylor, Chief Inspector of Prisons, said that during the Covid-19 pandemic, open prisons “[had] been particularly hard hit … because they [had] largely been unable to fulfill their main function - preparing prisoners for release“. He pointed out that prisoners had not been able to get paroled, and that some of them had also seen their parole delayed.
Death rate in custody (per 10,000 prisoners)
A study by the University College London (UCL) showed that the death rate during the COVID-19 pandemic was much higher among prisoners than in the general population. The Justice Secretary soundly rejected these findings. Addressing a parliamentary group, he said: “I totally disagree, I’m afraid, with the UCL analysis about prisons. I think it’s wrong, I think it’s based upon misconceptions, I reject it. The evidence, actually, over the last year, doesn’t bear it out.”
Variation in the number of untried prisoners
a decrease of 9%
There were 9,639 untried prisonners in December 2017.
A Justice Ministry report revealed that the number of prisoners awaiting trial on 31 March was the highest in ten years.
Variation in the number of prisoners
decreased by 2.56%
compared to the previous year
The number of prisoners decreased by 6% between March 2020 and March 2021.
The prison staff is represented by (a) union(s)
The leading union in the United Kingdom is the Professional Trades Union for Prison, Correctional & Secure Psychiatric Workers (POA). It represents uniformed prison staff (as defined by the PSO publication 8805), and psychiatric staff.
Some prison officers took legal action against the government. The officers claimed that they caught COVID-19 on the job and were seeking compensation. The Prison Officers Association (POA) affirmed their support for legal action against the government when the employer’s negligence caused an increased risk of infection.
The authorities publish official statistics on prison population
The government was accused of failing to disclose all data relating to the vaccination of prisoners against COVID-19. The only figures released were reportedly shared during Q&A sessions in Parliament.
Prisoners are free to practice their religion and follow their beliefs
The prison administration recognises the right of everyone to mention their religion and to practice it.1
Muslim prisoners have difficulty practicing their religion. Those who observe the Ramadan fast have no alarm clocks and must depend on prison staff to fulfill their religious obligations. Some of the officers deliberately refuse to awaken them. Others threaten to deprive them of prayer time if they fail to obey the slightest prison rule.
In its most recent visit report, the Committee for the Prevention of Torture has described a prison system “in a deep crisis”, pointing to violent, dangerous and overpopulated prisons. The Committee highlights acts of violence perpetrated by staff against prisoners. These include “preventative attacks”, which consist of beating inmates who migh pose a threat in the future. This practice was referred to in an official document from Liverpool prison in 2015, which stated that “there is no rule which specifies whether a person should expect to be attacked before being able to defend themselves”.
Relations between guards and prisoners remain tense at Leyhill Prison (Gloucestershire). Prisoners belonging to ethnic and/or racial minorities say they are “bullied or victimised” by staff. One report indicated that releases from the establishment were poorly managed. Half of the parole hearings have been deferred, and one man was still in prison a year after his release had been announced.
Total official capacity of the prison facilities
Certified National Accomodation1 in use.
A new prison facility is being built in Wellingborough, in the Northamptonshire region. Contractors were happy to say they were able to bring it to fruition in just 45 weeks. With its 1,680 prison cells, it is presented as modern with “the latest technology”, and equipment which should “enhance security and rehabilitation”. The facility, which is expected to open in 2022, will replace the former Wellingborough prison, which closed in 2012. A £253 million contract was awarded by the Ministry of Justice for construction and G4S will run the prison, creating 700 jobs.
The cells/dormitories are equipped with heating and/or air conditioning
in most cases
All cells must include a heating system (PSI 17/2012 on certified detention facilities). The prison inspectorate’s report of 2017 suggested that a number of prisoners did not have necessary heating or air conditioning in their cells, and that often those who did have these systems claimed that they didn’t work.1
Prisoners at Verne Prison on Portland were without heating and hot water for several weeks. Their living conditions quickly deteriorated, as did those of staff. The incident was the result of several concurrent boiler breakdowns in the building.
There are 12 prisons for women in England. Ten of these facilities are public and two are private. There are no prisons for women in Wales.
Public Prisons include:
- Askham Grange Prison (open facility)
- Drake Hall Prison
- East Sutton Park Prison (open facility)
- Eastwood Park Prison
- Foston Hall Prison
- Holloway Prison
- Low Newton Prison
- New Hall Prison
- Send Prison
- Styal Prison.
Private prisons include (operated by Sodexo):
- Bronzefield Prison
- Peterborough Prison
Women are often detained far from their homes and families.
[^ female]: Women in Prison, *State of the Estate: Women in Prison’s report on the women’s custodial estate * (report by the association Women in Prison), 2015, p. 34-36.
The Ministry of Justice announced that a special support centre for females with minor offences will open in Wales in 2021. The creation of such a centre is part of a strategy to send fewer women to prison. The Ministry sees this alternative to prison as a way to maintain family ties and to further rehabilitation.
Prisoners enrolled in educational training
The law forbids solitary confinement for juvenile prisoners
Solitary confinement for juvenile offenders is used as a method to maintain a degree of order and discipline or if it’s in their best interest. (YOI Rule 49). A young offender can appeal against being placed in solitary confinement before and after the decision is made. [^Pso17]
The law prohibits the use of solitary confinement as a means of disciplining young offenders. (YOI Rule 60(f).
Several children admitted recently to the Rainsbrook Secure Training Centre were confined to their rooms for more than 23.5 hours a day for periods of seven to fourteen days in order to prevent the spread of COVID-19. These measures were denounced by Ofsted, HM Inspectorate of Prisons and the Care Quality Commission. The inspectorates had sent a warning in October 2020, but there was no follow-up. Consequently, a rare “urgent notification” was submitted to the Secretary of State for Justice.
Measures to prevent epidemic or communicable diseases must be implemented. They must be comparable to measures taken externally.
A report by SAGE (Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies) indicated that even if the prevalence of the virus decreased in the general population, prisons would still be exposed to a greater risk of infections and might act as “a potential reservoir and amplifier of infection for the community”. A University College London (UCL) study pointed out that the mortality rate of incarcerated people was three times higher than that of the general population. Public health experts recommended they be given priority for vaccinations. Universal“ vaccination for prisoners and prison staff was thus recommended to mitigate the risk of spreading the COVID-19 variant outside of prison.
Approximately 594 prison staff were interviewed about compliance with and the effectiveness of COVID-19 measures. About 42% said that their colleagues complied ‘often’ and 50% ‘sometimes’ or ‘never’. Regarding their effectiveness, 26% said they were ‘very good’ or ‘good’, 38% ‘acceptable’ and 35% ‘bad’ or ‘very bad’. Of those surveyed, 79% of male staff and 86% of female staff felt that their mental and physical health had deteriorated during the pandemic.
A study conducted by EP:IC Consultants of 800 prisoners showed that 20% of prisoners had declined vaccination ─twice as high as in the general population. Among the reasons for turning down the vaccine, prisoners mentioned the lack of information about its side effects and an overall distrust of authorities.
The vaccination of prisoners began in England after having already been rolled out in Wales. Vaccination mainly prioritised the most vulnerable prisoners. The vaccination campaign was expected to be carried out according to the same programme planned for the outside.
The government announced that all adult prisoners in England should have received their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine by 19 July. Dr Eamonn O’Moore, national lead for health and justice at Public Health England (PHE), said 38% of 73,000 prisoners had received their first dose by 11 June.
Preston prison experienced a new surge in COVID-19 cases in April. One prisoner claimed that, within a week, 58 cases were reported in one of the prison wings. Infected prisoners were only allowed to go out for 15 minutes a day, just enough time to take a shower. The others were allowed 90 minutes outside their cell to keep infection rates down as much as possible.
Collective movements are recorded
Prison facilities are adapted to the needs of prisoners with disabilities
in some facilities
Prisoners with hearing problems are considered to be living in conditions of exclusion. This situation was aggravated by the COVID-19 pandemic and would persist after it if no significant changes are made.
Variation in the number of deaths in custody
an increase of 10 %
compared to the previous year
A record number of deaths was reported between January and March 2021. On average, 12 prisoners died each week, 40% more than in the previous quarter of the year. Frances Crook, chief executive of the Howard League, said: “Prisons have been largely forgotten in this pandemic, but today’s figures reveal the devastating impact of COVID-19 on people living and working behind bars.”
No prisoners died from COVID-19 during May, for the first time in eight months. Ministry of Justice figures showed a sharp decline in the number of cases identified. Only 64 prisoners tested positive in May, two-thirds fewer than in April.