Inmates 'slopping out' 14 years after ban

HMP Coldingley, Surrey The older wings at HMP Coldingley were criticised in the report

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The prisons watchdog has criticised a jail where inmates have been throwing human waste out of windows because of a lack of night-time toilets.

Inspectors said the sanitation system at HMP Coldingley was degrading and unacceptable.

Some inmates have potties for night-time use, 14 years after the government ended "slopping out".

Ministers recently confirmed to Parliament that 2,000 cells in various prisons have no toilet facilities.

Inspectors said that the category C prison in Surrey, which holds 505 men, was "essentially safe". But their report criticised older wings and inmates' lack of access to toilets overnight.

Long waits

One prisoner defecated into a plastic bag in his cell while others threw pots of urine out of cell windows.

The report said an automated system meant inmates had to wait up to 50 minutes for permission to use toilets on the wing.

Start Quote

Even at a time of cutbacks, replacement of this system needs to be prioritised”

End Quote Nigel Newcome Deputy chief inspector of prisons

Prisoners press a button and wait for their cell to be unlocked. Only one prisoner is let out at a time and they have eight minutes to return.

In some cases, inmates missed the 30-second window to open their door and leave for the toilet, meaning they were then sent to the back of the queue.

The electronic system was one of the measures introduced for prison wings where it had been impossible to build toilets into cells.

But Nigel Newcomen, deputy chief inspector of prisons, said: "The new E wing provided excellent accommodation, but the older wings still had the wholly unacceptable and degrading night sanitation system, which frequently led to the issue of potties and the throwing of human waste out of windows.

"Even at a time of cutbacks, replacement of this system needs to be prioritised."

A Prison Service spokesperson said: "In-cell sanitation was installed in most prisons between 1991 and 1996. Current practice is that all new build places will have in-cell sanitation installed.

"Integral sanitation is by far the most common method of providing water and sanitation for prisoners within existing prisons. The Prison Service is committed to treating all prisoners with decency and respect."

Ministers recently confirmed to Parliament that there are nine prisons with 2,000 cells that do not have integrated toilet facilities - about 3% of the total prison estate.

That is the same number of cells that were left without toilets when slopping out officially ended in England and Wales in 1996.

The practice continued for some years in Scotland's prisons, leading to a row over compensation payments for inmates.

Juliet Lyon, director of the Prison Reform Trust, said: "When an otherwise decent prison is taken to task for degrading sanitation arrangements, leading to a gross form of 'slopping out', you wonder what century we are in."

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