Monitors highlight ‘indecent conditions’ at Wormwood Scrubs – one of ’10 Prison Project’ jails

A prisoner spent more than a week in a cell with no window during winter, according to a watchdog report.

Inmates and staff were living and working in “indecent and unacceptable” conditions at HMP Wormwood Scrubs, the Independent Monitoring Board for the west London jail found.

The board’s annual report covering the 12 months to the end of May 2018 said the physical environment at the prison remained “unacceptably poor” in many residential areas.

It said: “It is not right that a modern-day prison should have rat infestations in its grounds, unheated cells with broken windows, or insufficient access to water.”

Over the course of the year, the IMB said it found “unacceptable” temperatures at the prison, showers that were either cold or scalding hot, and staff using heaters to stay warm.

There were rat infestations in external areas, and one wing lost network access for several days after rodents chewed through cabling.

A prisoner had spent more than a week in a cell with no water supply and no window during a cold winter, the IMB said.

It added: “By the end of December, there were multiple problems with the boilers and half the prison had been unheated for six weeks, including cells that had no window and were open to the elements.”

The report also said a prisoner had been released early because of a “serious” error in calculating his release date. He was later returned to custody.

Built between 1875 and 1891, Wormwood Scrubs had a population of 1,106 at the end of March.

A Prison Service spokeswoman said: “Wormwood Scrubs, like other Victorian prisons, faces challenges around living conditions and maintenance.

“As part of our 10 prisons project it is receiving extra investment and support, and since the reporting period new secure windows have been installed and refurbishment of the wings is ongoing.”

The spokeswoman added: “Releases in error are very rare but we take them extremely seriously and work with the police to bring offenders back into custody quickly.”

Mark Leech, Editor of The Prisons Handbook,  writes:

The Independent Monitoring Board (IMB) at HMP Wormwood Scrubs have highlighted what they call  ‘indecent conditions’ at the prison – rats, vermin, broken windows, no heating or water in cells and prisoner released in error – and this is one of the ‘10 Prisons Project’ jails.
While this is serious – what is risible is that it’s taken a full year after the end of the reporting period for this report to see the light of day.
The IMB claim to be an independent body, the clue is right there in their name, but no independent body worthy of the name would behave like this – no wonder a previous IMB Chair at Wormwood Scrubs walked out in disgust.
This report is of historical value only – much like the entire IMB organisation itself.

The IMB should agree a protocol with publication one month after submission to the MOJ – the public should not be forced to wait a year to find out what on earth is going on.

Read The Report

Inmate stabbed to death at Wormwood Scrubs to ‘teach him a lesson’, court told

A prisoner was stabbed to death with a makeshift knife at HMP Wormwood Scrubs to teach him a “lesson”, a court has heard

Khader Saleh, 25, was attacked by fellow inmate Kalifa Dibbassey, 21, after visiting his cell to try to resolve a dispute, jurors were told.

Dibbassey is on trial at the Old Bailey accused of murder alongside Ahmed Khayre, 22, and Enton Marku, 20, who were allegedly recruited to help on January 31.

opening the trial, Oliver Glasgow QC said: “It appears that Khader Saleh had gone to this cell in the hope of trying to resolve a conflict that he had with Kalifa Dibbassey.

“However, he could have had no idea what lay in wait for him.

“Kalifa Dibbassey had armed himself with a makeshift knife for the purpose of attacking Khader Saleh and had gone to the trouble of recruiting help in order that he could carry out his plan.”

Marku was waiting outside the cell and Khayre escorted the victim inside, it is claimed.

Mr Glasgow told jurors: “Once the cell door was shut, Khader Saleh was attacked and stabbed twice.

“He had no chance to defend himself or to strike out at his attackers, which is why the only person to sustain any injury in that cell was Khader Saleh.”

Afterwards, the defendants allegedly set off an alarm before climbing into a neighbouring cell and setting off an alarm there too.

They got away when a prison guard unlocked the cell door moments later, the Old Bailey was told.

Mr Glasgow said the attack appeared to have been sparked by a “minor altercation” in the segregation unit the day before.

He said: “No-one saw what happened but Khader Saleh had sustained an injury to his face and it was evident that a fight had broken out and someone had assaulted him inside the holding cell.”

On the possible motive for the attack, Mr Glasgow said: “Khader Saleh had made a nuisance of himself and he needed to be taught a lesson.”

Jurors heard Dibbassey had admitted the killing but had said he acted in self-defence.

The prosecutor said: “Kalifa Dibbassey was waiting in his cell for Khader Saleh to arrive, he had armed himself with a knife that had been fabricated from a piece of metal.

“He was ready to use that knife the moment the cell door was shut and as soon as he had killed Khader Saleh he ran from the cell and hid in a cell on a completely different level.”

Mr Glasgow said all three men “played their part” in the death at the west London jail and it did not matter who wielded the weapon.

Wormwood Scrubs has an operational capacity of around 1,300 prisoners and at the time of Mr Saleh’s death, there were 1,188 inmates.

All three defendants have denied murder.

HMP Wormwood Scrubs – iconic jail suffering persistent and intractable failings

SCRUBSWormwood Scrubs, the iconic West London jail, was found to be suffering from persistent and intractable failings, including high violence, drugs, chronic staff shortages and poor public protection work, according to a report by HM Inspectorate of Prisons (HMIP).

The jail, holding more than 1,200 men, has been inspected three times in the last three-and-a-half years. Peter Clarke, HM Chief Inspector of Prisons, said the inspections in May 2014 and December 2015 raised “very serious concerns.”

The latest inspection, in July and August 2017, was announced and, Mr Clarke said, “we report again on the intractability and persistence of failure at this prison, notwithstanding the hard work of the governor and his staff to try to make some difference.”

There were a number of major concerns:

  • The prison had high levels of often serious violence, resulting in some significant injuries. There had been a ‘dramatic’ increase in violence against staff, with more than 90 assaults in the six months to July. Despite efforts to tackle violence, 65% of prisoners said they had felt unsafe at some time and 36% felt unsafe at the time of the inspection. Drugs were very accessible.
  • Too many men were locked up for significant periods of the day, some for as long as long as 23 hours. A total of 41% of prisoners were found to be locked in cells during the day.
  • The prison struggled to provide decent conditions. Outside areas were strewn with litter, attracting rats and cockroaches. Some food serveries were left uncleaned, in an ‘appalling’ state.
  • Far too many windows facing the perimeter wall were broken, which enabled prisoners to retrieve contraband thrown over the wall.
  • Equality and diversity work had been neglected and was poor – in a jail with a 60% black and minority ethnic (BME) population.
  • There were long delays in Carillion, a contractor, carrying out maintenance tasks, and the prison stores had not been open for many weeks, leaving staff to scavenge for many basic items needed by prisoners.
  • Resettlement and offender management work was “fundamentally failing”, the report said, “and the prison was not meeting one of its key aims of supporting men to understand and address their offending behaviour and risk.” The quality of public protection work – assessing and managing the risk posed by prisoners on release – was also not good enough.

Some progress, however, had been made. Support for new prisoners in their early days had improved. Oversight of the use of force was better than previously and, while use of force was high, incidents looked at by inspectors were proportionate. The segregation unit also did reasonably well, with some very challenging men, and health care was reasonably good.

Staff were remarkably stoic despite the pressures they were under, Mr Clarke said. Pervasive staffing shortages – arising from recruitment problems and the loss of experienced staff – resulted in significant staff redeployment and a failure to deliver even basic services.

Mr Clarke said: “Overall, this was an extremely concerning picture, and we could see no justification as to why this poor situation had persisted since 2014. The governor and his team were, to their credit, working tirelessly to address the problems faced… This was commendable. But we were not confident that they could deliver improvement to outcomes without considerable additional external support. Her Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service (HMPPS) must, in our view, engage with the governor and his team to develop a recovery plan.”

A Ministry of Justice spokesperson said: “HMP Wormwood Scrubs has taken decisive action to reduce violence, and is working closely with Carillion to urgently improve conditions at the prison. We know staffing remains an issue, so we are recruiting 120 extra officers and will cut the time taken for new recruits to begin training. The addition of new, senior probation staff has also led to significant improvements in resettling offenders into the community following release. We are pleased inspectors recognised the hard work and dedication of staff at the prison, especially in improving education and purposeful activity.”

View the Report Here

Grayling denies prisons crisis

Justice Secretary Chris Grayling has said it is “unfortunate” the press only cover bad news about prisons and was forced to deny a crisis in the system after a serves of damning reports – causing one expert to say he is playing with words.
A series of highly critical reports from Chief Inspector of Prisons Nick Hardwick over the summer has led Labour to accuse Mr Grayling of burying his head in the sand over the “shambolic” prison system.
But the Justice Secretary insisted there are “many” good prisons for every bad one after being quizzed by Labour former prisons minister David Hanson on the situation at Wormwood Scrubs, Glen Parva, and Doncaster prisons.
All three were identified by the chief inspector as either unsafe or in decline this year.During justice questions in the Commons, Mr Grayling told Mr Hanson: “It is unfortunate that the press coverage is always of the bad reports, not for example today when we have an excellent report from Chelmsford, two weeks ago when we had an excellent report from Parc youth offender institutions.
“The Chief Inspector has rightly been looking this year at prisons where there have been challenges in the past.”But it is the case, and you will know if you visit prisons around the estate, there is a lot of very good work being done by our teams, going through a process of change caused by budget pressures, they are doing a first rate job.
“And for every time you get a report questioning performance in one prison, there are many others that are doing a first rate job, as you will know yourself.”
Mr Grayling’s response prompted shadow justice secretary Sadiq Khan to claim suicides, self harm, deaths in prison, serious assaults and call-outs for the riot squad are all on the rise.
Mr Khan said one in five prisons in England and Wales are now rated by the Government’s offender management service as “of concern” – more than doubling in a year.
The Labour MP said: “We’ve had four reports from the Chief Inspector of Prisons which have been pretty damning into Glen Parva, Doncaster, Isis and Wormwood Scrubs.
“What will it take for you to accept that we are in the midst of a prison crisis?”
Mr Grayling replied: “As always you paint a very partial view of what’s going on in our prisons.
“Our prisons are less overcrowded than they have been at any point since 2001, they are less violent than they were under the last government, there is more work being done in our prisons today than was the case under the previous government, the amount of prisoners going through education is rising.
“There are staff shortages in parts of our prisons system but across the prisons system we have a dedicated staff working hard, doing the right job.
“I take very seriously the issue of suicide in our prisons, we saw a rise in numbers in the year, we saw a fall in numbers across the summer, we may see a rise, we may see a fall in the future. These are difficult to track, we work very hard to tackle what is a real problem.”
But Mr Khan blasted Mr Grayling for failing to manage the prison system.He said: “This is classic head in the sand syndrome.”The Government cannot pretend any longer that there is no crisis in our prisons. Even their own backbenchers say the system is shambolic.”Your priorities, regardless of your budget, must be the security of the public and prison officers, and the welfare of inmates.
“Your department is failing in all three – not my words, but an editorial in The Sun newspaper.
“Bearing in mind you were appointed by the Prime Minister in your current job to appeal to the red tops, what’s gone wrong?”
Mr Grayling replied: “I will think we have a problem in our prisons when I am forced through bad planning to release tens of thousands of prisoners weeks early, to commit crimes they should not have committed as the last government did.
“I know I will have a problem when I have to hire thousands of police cells when we don’t have enough space in our prisons.
“The truth is we have space in our prisons, they are less overcrowded, we are increasing education, they are less violent than they were under the last government.
“We have faced challenges given budget pressures but we are doing a much better job than you did.”
Mark Leech editor of Converse the national prisons newspaper said Mr Grayling was “playing with words” on a subject that deserved the utmost seriousness.
Mr Leech said: “Of course there are good reports and bad reports, nothing is all good or bad.
“But what Grayling refuses to recognise is that the bad reports are not only out numbering the good ones but the bad reports are worse than in the past with prisons failing weekly on the most serious issues of safety and decency.
“Grayling is playing with words on a subject that deserves seriousness and respect.”

Wormwood Scrubs “Filthy” and unsafe


One of the country’s most well-known prisons, in west London, has been heavily criticised by inspectors after it was found to be unsafe, “filthy” in places and under-resourced.

HMP Wormwood Scrubs, a Victorian jail, experienced major structural changes in late 2013 which led to a “large tranche of experienced staff” leaving, Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons (HMIP) said.

The prison, which has held notable inmates including Oscar Wilde’s lover Lord Alfred Douglas and rock stars such as Pete Doherty and the Rolling Stones’ Keith Richards, has seen six prisoners take their lives since its last inspection in 2011, with five committing suicide in 2013 alone.

Inspectors said the jail, which holds 1,300 prisoners but sees around 2,500 move in and out each month, had “shockingly” failed to put in place repeated recommendations by the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman to tackle suicide and self-harm.

Nearly half of inmates indicated that they had at some time felt unsafe during their stay in the prison, inspectors said, while 22% felt unsafe at the time of the unannounced inspection in May.

A number of cells designed for one prisoner held two, many windows were broken with some exposed shards, graffiti was widespread and many toilets were filthy, the report added.

Chief inspector of prisons Nick Hardwick said: “This is a very disappointing report. Major structural changes in late 2013 had led to a significant reduction of resources.

“We were told that one consequence of this was that a large tranche of experienced staff had left very quickly and that this had been destabilising, not least because the prison had found it difficult to recruit replacements.

“There was some recent evidence that important steps had been taken to arrest the decline, but there was still much to be done.

“We highlight many concerns in this report, not least the safety of prisoners, especially those at risk of self-harm, environmental standards and the need for better access to activities.”

Inspectors said a “significant” backlog of around 100 new prisoners meant the prison was not coping with the volumes of inmates arriving.

“The induction process was good in principle but there was a backlog of at least 100 prisoners who were unable to engage in activities in the meantime,” the report said.

It went on: “Many staff appeared extremely stretched and some were clearly frustrated that they could not do more; others appeared to have lost focus on prisoners’ needs.”

Michael Spurr, chief executive of the National Offender Management Service, said: “Wormwood Scrubs has been through a difficult change process. It has had to adapt to hold young offenders alongside its adult population whilst implementing new structures and routines to provide a decent regime for prisoners at lower cost.

“This has not been an easy transition, however as the Chief Inspector acknowledges the Governor has taken decisive action to address the situation.”

Frances Crook, chief executive of charity the Howard League for Penal Reform, said: “The Ministry of Justice’s policies are causing chaos and crisis in prisons.

“People are dying and staff are put in danger as a result.

“The long-term consequence will be increased crime inflicted on us all when prisoners are released after a period of isolation and inactivity in stinking cells, resentful and impecunious.

“Prisons have gone into meltdown in the last year and it is a direct result of Government policy. I have never seen a public service deteriorate so rapidly and so profoundly.”

Juliet Lyon, director of the Prison Reform Trust (PRT), said: “Over two years, Wormwood Scrubs, London’s best-known Victorian jail, has gone from being an establishment described as getting the basics right to one where standards have deteriorated, remaining staff are overstretched and prisoners feel unsafe.

“Drastic cuts combined with rushed policy decisions are driving our prisons into freefall. Locking people up in filthy cells with nothing to do is no way to transform rehabilitation. If the Justice Secretary is still asking ‘crisis, what crisis?’, he should read this report from cover to cover.”