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Many prisoners still locked up for 23 hours a day, increasing mental health concerns at Wormwood Scrubs

Even though most of society opened up in March 2022, progress in opening up the regime at Wormwood Scrubs, and providing access to education and activity, was ‘glacially slow’ says the Independent Monitoring Board in its annual report, released today. 

The upside was the effective containment of Covid; the downside was the increase in mental health issues in the prison. The Board believes that the very reduced time out of cell, even when the regime should permit longer, has been a contributory factor to the increase in mental health referrals.

  • The IMB notes: unacceptably long delays in the transfer of mentally ill prisoners to appropriate external hospital facilities.
  • Three deaths that appear to be self-inflicted during the reporting period, all of which were of prisoners on remand.
  • Poor quality food, often inedible or cold.
  • A spike in prisoner-on-prisoner violence is of concern, rising from 449 to 498 over June – November 2022.

The Board, however, also reports:

  • The regular communication of important information and weekly updates with prisoners through WayOut TV.
  • When social visits were not possible during the pandemic, the prison moved swiftly to video calls and in-cell telephony helped family contact.
  • A continued programme of infrastructure improvements – replacing windows and upgrading shower areas.

Board member Tanya Ossack said:

“While we fully understand the concerns of the prison to keep prisoners as safe as possible, both in relation to public health and incidents of violence, we are very concerned that these priorities may be preventing a swift return to a pre-Covid regime. However physically safe men may be, the mental health effects seen around the prison because of the long daily incarceration of some men can only be seen as seriously detrimental and damaging to any kind of rehabilitative process.”