'Abusive, demeaning and unsafe': Prison inspectors hit out at Britain's largest jail and it staff

Britain's largest jail is jeopardising the safety of its prisoners, according to inspectors.

A report claims that managers at Wandsworth prison are unwilling to take responsibility for the institution's problems.

Nick Hardwick, the chief inspector of prisons, said the treatment of many inmates at the jail in south-west London was 'demeaning, unsafe and fell below what could be classed as decent'.

'Unsafe': Inspectors concluded that HMP Wandsworth was ill equipped to tackle prisoners' problems

'Unsafe': Inspectors concluded that HMP Wandsworth was ill equipped to tackle prisoners' problems

Managers appeared unwilling to acknowledge or address concerns, staff interactions with prisoners were 'frequently indifferent and sometimes abusive', and victims of bullies were not adequately protected.

'I did not detect sufficient willingness in the prison to acknowledge and address these concerns,' Mr Hardwick said.

'I hope the prison service management will now act decisively to reverse the prison's decline.'

The highly critical report comes after the last inspection in June 2009 was marred when 'difficult' prisoners were moved between Wandsworth and Pentonville prisons so they were not present in either jail during the inspections.

The category B Victorian prison in Wandsworth holds 'a challenging population with multiple problems' and progress there has stalled, the inspectors said.

Chief inspector Nick Hardwick has criticised the running of Britain's largest jail

Chief inspector Nick Hardwick has criticised Britain's largest jail

'The safety of prisoners held in Wandsworth is now a matter of serious concern,' the report said.

'Wandsworth compared badly with similar prisons facing similar challenges and we were concerned by what appeared to be unwillingness among some prison managers and staff to acknowledge and take responsibility for the problems the prison faced.

'We were also concerned that poor staff-prisoner relationships, the lack of a predictable regime, deficiency of association, and insufficient activity contributed to feelings of isolation and alienation that might have led to self-harming behaviour.'

The report also found that some prisoners were out of their cells for just two hours a day.

Frances Crook, chief executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform, said: 'This report is deeply concerning as it demonstrates that prisoners at Wandsworth Prison are being detained in revolting conditions.

'Such abuse hampers safe return to the community and puts victims at risk.

'If Wandsworth Prison is unable to offer basic facilities such as a shower each day, how much rehabilitation and work to reduce reoffending do we think is going on?

'People penned in such an inadequate environment will leave as a continued threat to the public.'

Michael Spurr, chief executive of the National Offender Management Service, admitted it was a 'poor report', but said action had already been taken to address the inspectors' recommendations.

'Managers and staff at the prison are in no doubt that they must improve performance,' he said.

'I visited the prison last week and I am satisfied that improvements are being made. We will continue to monitor progress and will deliver the improvements required.'

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