‘Vermin-infested’ Jail Slammed

A vermin-infested jail has been accused of “institutional disrespect” of inmates in a damning report which listed a catalogue of failings. An inspection at Pentonville prison in north London found an “unusually high” level of alleged assaults by staff, and claims of easy access to illegal drugs.

Chief inspector of prisons Anne Owers said the findings highlighted the scale of problems in “overcrowded and pressurised” local prisons.

Her report said prisoners lacked basic requirements such as pillows and on one occasion there was not enough food to go round. She also found relationships between staff and prisoners had deteriorated since last year’s inspection, with allegations of victimisation up from 29% to 40%.

Her unannounced visit in June found officers at the Victorian prison, the busiest in London, seemed to treat inmates as a “lower order”.

Some 55% of prisoners said they felt unsafe and 42% said it was easy to obtain illegal drugs. The figures were much higher than at the time of the last inspection or than in other similar prisons.

The prison was “overrun with cockroaches and vermin”. On a night visit, inspectors found leftover meals and open flour sacks in the kitchen which attracted the pests.

Of 12 main recommendations made in the last report, seven had not been achieved and four only partially achieved.

The inspector said Pentonville suffered from an increasingly transitory population, with a rise in remanded and unsentenced prisoners, but there were also “fundamental underlying issues” that needed to be addressed by managers.

Ms Owers said: “They need to ensure that the systems that are meant to be in place are actually operating. They also need to explore the reasons for the significant deterioration in staff-prisoner relationships, monitor them closely and take decisive action to investigate and deal with any allegations against staff.”

“The report will be disappointing for the many staff and managers within the prison who are committed to improvement and who are working hard to achieve a decent environment. However, we hope that it provides the pointers for what needs to be done, as well as indicating to ministers and the public the scale of the challenge in our overcrowded and pressurised local prisons.”