Prison wing at HMP Lindholme 'worst seen for years'
- 18 June 2013
- From the section Sheffield & South Yorkshire
Part of a South Yorkshire prison housing low category inmates is "the worst establishment seen for many years", according to a report.
A snap inspection of HMP Lindholme at Doncaster in February found drugs and alcohol widely available throughout the prison.
The strongest criticism was of the category D wing, which the report described as "forgotten and neglected".
The National Offender Management Service said the wing was now closed.
The service's chief executive, Michael Spurr said: "We got this wrong and will learn lessons so it does not happen again."
He said the wing had been converted from an Immigration Removal Centre to a category D unit holding 80 adult prisoners "too quickly with insufficient planning".
In its report the HM Inspectorate of Prisons said the jail - along with HMP Moorland and HMP Hatfield in the South Yorkshire cluster - was destined to be run by the private sector.
It said "the uncertainty this created added to the difficulty in running the prison".
Disabled inmate taunted
Citing instances where there were religious tensions on the wing inspectors discovered someone had defecated in washing facilities for Muslim prayers.
Described as an "astonishing situation" by the inspectors, more than a third of prisoners interviewed said they had felt unsafe at some time.
In the category C side of the jail, the inspectorate found that the needs of prisoners with disabilities were ignored, including a "distressed" disabled inmate who was "constantly taunted" and bullied for payment if he had to ask for help.
The low category prison wing singled out for particular criticism had been used as an Immigration Removal Centre (IRC) where people were held awaiting deportation.
On its transfer back to the prison service the report concluded that funding for the wing had been lost and not replaced.
Elsewhere in the prison inspectors found poor procedures for men at risk of suicide or self-harm.
The report said the only support for those victimised by other inmates was an option to confine them to their cells.
Many of those prisoners said their mental health had deteriorated and most were eventually transferred out of the prison with nothing done to tackle the underlying problems.
Inspectors said there was no work or education available on the category D wing, apart from a few domestic duties, and it was difficult for prisoners to see a doctor if they were unwell.
There was some praise for the wider prison's support services, including programmes for those in work, education and training.
The report said much of the training was of good quality and vocational courses in construction or bakery were "outstanding".
Overall, Nick Hardwick, the Chief Inspector of Prisons said HMP Lindholme was "a cause for real concern".
He said: "The closure of the [category] D side has reduced the immediate risks but legitimate prisoner grievances, the lack of activity, mixed staff-prisoner relationships and indications of some religious tensions, combined with the ready availability of drugs and alcohol, are an unhealthy mix.
"The uncertainty created by the prison's move to the private sector cannot be allowed to delay the urgent improvements that are required."
Juliet Lyon, director of the Prison Reform Trust, said: "This disturbing report shows how quickly and how far a large and complex prison, facing an uncertain future, can go downhill."