Conditions at Wormwood Scrubs ‘extremely concerning’, prisons inspector reports

The prisons watchdog has delivered a scathing assessment of one of Britain’s most famous jails, raising the alarm over chronic staff shortages, food supplies and a surge in violence.

Wormwood Scrubs struggled to provide decent conditions, with outside areas strewn with litter, attracting rats and cockroaches, inspectors found.

HM Inspectorate of Prisons detailed how food routinely ran out in one wing at the establishment in west London, which holds more than 1,200 men.

To ensure that all prisoners had a meal, staff either sourced a half-used tray from another servery or distributed “mountain survival” dried food packs, which had to be reconstituted with boiling water, the inspection report revealed.

It also said:

  • 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, when inspectors visited the jail;
  • Far too many windows facing the perimeter wall were broken, which enabled prisoners to retrieve contraband thrown over the wall;
  • The prison stores had not been open for many weeks, leaving staff to “scavenge” for many basic items needed by inmates;
  • A case sample found important aspects of public protection work had not been done, potentially leaving some serious issues unmanaged.

The report is the latest in a line of highly critical reports on Wormwood Scrubs, which was built between 1875 and 1891.

In 2015 it was claimed that conditions at the prison had prompted one staff member to say of the cells: “I wouldn’t keep a dog in there.”

Publishing the latest assessment, Chief Inspector of Prisons Peter Clarke said: “Wormwood Scrubs is an iconic local prison serving communities in London.

“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.”

The Ministry of Justice said the prison had taken “decisive action” to reduce violence and was working closely with contractor Carillion to urgently improve conditions.

An MoJ spokesman said: “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.”

Copyright (c) Press Association Ltd. 2017, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) Andrew Matthews / PA Wire.