Staff cuts create havoc in Wormword Scrubs
It's all so predictable. Each report into a prison, be it from the prisons inspector or independent monitoring boards, shows the same problems hitting the same institutions. Each of them puts the lie to Chris Grayling's claim that there is no prison crisis.
Wormwood Scrubs was already criticised in the harshest possible terms by the prisons inspector last month. This time it was the turn of the monitoring board. The institution had "a very dismal and highly regrettable year", it found. It is in a "dysfunctional and chaotic state".
Why? The same old reason. Staff numbers. Cut staffing and a prison cannot function. This is a simple truth Grayling refuses to recognise. The independent monitoring board does not have the same problem. "A severe shortage of experienced officers had a major knock on effect across most of the prison's wings and departments", it found.
"The core day was frequently a day of lockdown. Generally only a basic level of work was done in most of the prison’s departments including safer custody. The knock-on effect of lack of staff was felt throughout every area of the prison. The staff sickness rate became very high.
"The staff continue to have a very low morale. They have very serious concerns about safety, control and discipline. Most officers have little time to have meaningful conversations with prisoners which, in the board's view, is a cornerstone of their role.
"Meaningful rehabilitation has generally been no more than an aspiration for most of the year."
The prison library is well stocked and managed, with a solid provider in the form of Hammersmith and Fulham council. They've even extended their opening hours. But the number of visits to the library has dropped by about a third since January, because of the number of lockdowns. Staff shortages affect every corner of a prison.
Young offenders on remand were introduced recently, with entirely foreseeable results. Over 20% of all use of force is involved with them, even though they only make up five per cent of the population.
In the last reporting year, five people died in the prison.
Another day, another damning report on Britain's prison crisis. Grayling will pay it no attention. The tragedy is that it's all entirely preventable.