BEST’s work in HMP Wandsworth “invaluable” – HM Chief Inspector of Prisons

On 6 January 2022 HM Chief Inspector of Prisons published their report on an unannounced inspection of HMP Wandsworth in September 2021. Although prison conditions were found to be “poor”, and much of the report focused specifically on the inadequate treatment of foreign nationals, BEST was praised for “staying on site during the pandemic” and its “invaluable work in supporting foreign national prisoners.”

The report highlights the extremely challenging environment within the prison – expressing particular concerns about the scheduled rise in prisoner numbers from April 2022. Wandsworth remains one of the most overcrowded prisons in England and Wales, with the resulting consequence that “there were not enough staff to make sure prisoners received even the most basic regime; for example they sometimes had to choose between exercise, ordering from the kiosk and having a shower.”

The report also draws attention to the high proportion of foreign nationals in the prison (nearly half) and “the prison, the education service and, in particular, Home Office staff, were not doing enough to support this group of prisoners.” It adds “Some foreign national prisons had even been told on the day of their release that they were to continue to be held in the jail.”

However, in its introduction the report says: A local charity, BEST, had stayed on site during the pandemic and were doing invaluable work in supporting foreign national prisoners while, inexplicably, Home Office staff had absented themselves from the prison for more than a year. In the meantime, prison officers and other staff had to deal with the consequences of their inaction. Even since Home Office staff had returned, working what appeared to be limited hours, they were not running surgeries on the wing and prisoners were lucky if they got a phone call.”

The Inspector concluded “Leaders in this crumbling, overcrowded, vermin-infested prison will need considerable ongoing support from the prison service, notably with the recruitment and retention of staff, improving the infrastructure of the jail and
making sure that external agencies such as the Home Office and the education
provider pull their weight. It is hard to see how HMP Wandsworth’s limited
progress can be sustained if prisoner numbers in this jail are allowed to
increase as they are scheduled to do next April.”

Download the full report

Read the related article in The Independent, 7 January 2022

January 2022

Published by geoffreyericsmith

Director of, BEST, Befriending and Support Team for Foreign Nationals in HMP Wandsworth

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