Inspectors report ‘marked decline’ at prison where inmates are living in squalor

Inmates are living in squalor in a 19th century house being used as an open prison, inspectors found.

HMP Hewell, which opened in 2008, is split across two sites in Worcestershire.

Inspectors said there was a “marked decline” in conditions at both sites.

The category B men’s prison held around 870 inmates at the time of inspection in June.

Around half a mile away is the open prison set in a 19th century Grade II-listed country house and holding around 200 prisoners, a quarter of whom were described as a risk to others and 20% of whom were members of organised crime gangs.

The chief inspector of prisons Peter Clarke said his findings were “worrying”, and in the open part of the prison “living conditions were the worst I have seen in this type of establishment”.

He added: “There will need to be significant investment to restore the building to anything like acceptable conditions.

“In the meantime, I can only describe it as squalid, demeaning and depressing.”

He said the dormitories the men were living in were “untidy, dirty” and full of food waste, dirty clothing and other rubbish while some of the toilets and showers were “filthy”.

“The poor living conditions were compounded by the fact that the establishment was failing in its core purpose as an open prison”, he added.

Self-harm had doubled since the last inspection and education, skills and work were assessed as inadequate in the closed part of the prison.

Mr Clarke said: “This was a very worrying inspection.

“The prison leadership and regional HM Prison and Probation leadership were left fully aware of what was needed to be done, and I trust that they started to address our findings immediately following the end of the inspection.”

Progress will be reviewed in the coming months, he added.

Phil Copple, HM Prison and Probation Service (HMPPS) director general for prisons, said: “I share the inspectors’ confidence that staff and the management team at HMP Hewell will be able to meet the considerable challenges facing them.

“The concerns raised about the living conditions at the open site are particularly worrying, and we will ensure those are addressed.

“A new drug strategy, extra sniffer-dog patrols and increased searches in partnership with local police will make the closed prison safer, while a new education provider is now in place to better prepare all prisoners for release.”

Copyright (c) PA Media Ltd. 2019, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) David Jones / PA Wire.