Inmates locked in “dirty, graffiti-covered cells” for 22 hours a day

The build-up of rubbish was criticized by the inspectors.  (

The build-up of rubbish was criticized by the inspectors. (HM Chief Inspector of Prisons)

One of Britain’s most famous prisons has come under fire after it was found that inmates were living in “harsh” conditions and confined to their cells for up to 22 hours a day.

With more than 1,400 inmates, HMP Wandsworth in south-west London is one of the largest and oldest in the UK, but suffers from severe overcrowding and has regularly received poor ratings in previous inspections.

In the most recent inspections in 2018 and 2021, most scores were two out of four and described as “not sufficiently good.”

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Many cells were dirty.  (HM Chief Inspector of Prisons)

Many cells were dirty. (HM Chief Inspector of Prisons)

The 2022 report praised improvements in managerial oversight, engagement with foreign prisoners, education and mental health support.

But they found that violence had increased, overcrowding was still a problem, with many living in “very poor conditions” and access to mental health services, education, training and even the outdoors was inadequate.

The report said: “Prisoners were moved into dirty, graffiti-covered cells, some of which had no windows. Cleaning of lockers continued to be in disarray and there was large amounts of rubbish in training yards which attracted vermin.”

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The shower areas in some parts of the prison were described as

The shower areas in some parts of the prison were described as “unacceptable”. (HM Chief Inspector of Prisons)

It specifically singled out the inpatient mental health unit, describing it as “unacceptable.”

Entire wings were criticized for being dirty and overcrowded, with many single-person cells shared between two.

They said the shower areas in wings G, H and K were “nasty”.

A mental health cell in the prison.  (HM Chief Inspector of Prisons)

A mental health cell in the prison. (HM Chief Inspector of Prisons)

They also said there was no plan to improve the situation.

The authors said more than half of the population was unemployed or not engaged in education, meaning they spent 22 hours locked in their cell.

Some inmates were denied access to the outdoors for several days.

Access to outdoor spaces was criticized.  (HM Chief Inspector of Prisons)

Access to outdoor spaces was criticized. (HM Chief Inspector of Prisons)

Despite praising the recent recruitment drive to fill mental health support roles in the prison, the authors still strongly criticized the provisions.

Only four of the 12 mental health units were usable, half were refurbished and the other two were damaged.

This meant that patients often had to be treated on the wings and had to wait weeks to receive a special mental health unit.

Some inmates had to spend 22 hours a day in their cell.  (HM Chief Inspector of Prisons)

Some inmates had to spend 22 hours a day in their cell. (HM Chief Inspector of Prisons)

The longest a patient had to wait was 226 days.

The report also said support for prisoners after release was “very poor” with less than half of prisoners having somewhere to stay on the night of their release.

It also noted that there were “very high incidences of ineffective staff”, which had been a problem in previous inspections.

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