A recent inspection by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons of HMP Wormwood Scrubs has resulted in reports in the national press about the atrocious conditions there. However, after looking at what has actually been written about these conditions, it became clear that Scrubs is not an exception, but an example. An example of what prisons up and down the country are like.
Inspectors found that Wormwood Scrubs is overcrowded. But it isn’t news to anyone that the entire prison system is overcrowded.
They said that the prison was rat-infested. But out of the six prisons where I’ve personally spent significant periods of time, every one of them has hosted vermin of one kind or another.
Some prisoners at Wormwood Scrubs spend more than 22 hours a day in their cell. This isn’t typical of all prisons per se, but it is certainly typical of all local prisons.
Cells include an unscreened toilet. As they do at the majority of prisons I have been to.
Meals are unappetising. What’s new?
Some prisoners had to stuff the edges of windows with newspaper to keep out the weather. Something I have done at every single prison I have been to. In fact, at one prison (HMP Swinfen Hall) one of the cells I was placed in had no glass (or perspex) in the window frames at all.
At Scrubs clean clothing is hard to get hold of. I’ve been battling to get hold of a pair of jeans that fit for over a year here at Wakefield.
Some prisoners there are frightened to leave their cells, in fear of attack. And I have known such prisoners at every single prison I’ve ever been to.
In fact, there is not one criticism of Scrubs which can’t also be levelled either at the prison system as a whole or at least at a large number of British prisons.