1206 GMT March 22, 2018
An analysis of hundreds of inspections covering 118 institutions found that a staggering 68 percent are now providing unsatisfactory standards in at least one respect, with two in five jails deemed to be unacceptably unsafe, the Guardian wrote.
Rory Stewart, the prisons minister, described the state of some jails as “deeply disturbing”. Writing in the Observer, he concedes that prisons are rife with psychoactive drugs, and see “increasing levels of violence committed by prisoners, and horrifying rates of self-harm”.
Speaking to the Observer, Lord Woolf, the former lord chief justice — who oversaw an inquiry after the notorious Strangeways riot in 1990, in which two people died — warned that there was a real risk of such an outbreak happening again.
“[If] you ask me whether we have gone back to where we were pre-Strangeways, I think we are there in that sort of territory,” said Woolf.
“It is not confined to one of our prison establishments. It is across the board. There has been a complete breakdown in recognizing the fact that serious action is needed, and recognizing that the only way to do it is to have a long-term plan, with somebody in charge of it throughout the term.”
The Observer investigation found that in the most recent inspections of adult prisons in England and Wales, 80 out of the 118 jails examined were providing insufficient or poor standards in at least one area. Only seven percent of prisons — just eight — received a “good” rating across all four categories. An alarming 44 percent were providing poor or insufficient safety, and almost half (47 percent) offered insufficient or poor access to meaningful activities— often leaving prisoners locked in cells for very long periods. Two in five prisons were providing inadequate assistance to prisoners as they left — a major problem in tackling reoffending.
The latest official figures show that self-harm and assaults in prison are at a record high, with critics blaming cramped cells, a shortage of staff and prisoners spending too long locked up in poor conditions.
The chaos has seen self-harm reach a record high of 42,837 incidents in the 12 months to September 2017, up 12 percent from the previous year. Assaults have reached a high of 28,165 incidents over the same period. Serious assaults are up by 10 percent. Of these, 7,828 assaults were on staff.