A prisons inspector has said that “elements of prisoners’ treatment and conditions” at Brixton Prison are “unacceptable”.
The Chief Inspector of Prisons, Nick Hardwicke, has published a report detailing the findings of an unannounced inspection of the institution.
The inspection came at a bad time for the prison, which had to change its category last year to C/D, holding resettlement prisoners, rather than a B prison, which holds remand and short-sentenced prisoners. The prison is in the midst of building works to deal with the change.
However, Hardwicke concluded that “none of the advantages of the new provision had yet been realised” and “too much was on hold waiting for the new facilities to be ready”.
The prison is currently at 60% over its normal capacity and many prisoners are having to share small, cramped cells.
Inspectors found that there are not enough activity sessions, meaning many prisoners are locked in their cells for over 20 hours a day. And the learning, skills and work activities available are described in the report as “too often inadequate”. Prisoners reported poor relationships with staff and found it hard to get basic needs, such as clean clothing, met satisfactorily.
The inspection also found that drugs – especially cannabis – are readily available and undermine the good work done by the substance misuse services at the prison.
Michael Spurr, Chief Executive Officer of the National Offender Management Service (NOMS), said: “Brixton prison was undergoing a significant change when the Chief Inspector visited but since then it has continued to adapt to its new role.
“In January the prison will see further changes with a new range of employment and education initiatives helping to increase productive time out of cell. This includes a new Clink Restaurant opening in February, which will give offenders the chance to learn the skills that can help them secure employment once they leave prison. The governor and his staff have been working hard to tackle the issues raised during this inspection.”
Hardwicke noted in his report that Brixton prison is “at a turning point” and there were some positives to draw on, notably projects such as the Bad Boys Bakery, the Brixton Hour radio, and plans for a Clink restaurant run by prisoners.