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Population pressures continue to punish Pentonville prisoners

With 75% of HMP Pentonville’s population on long-term remand and a lack of focus on preparation for release, Pentonville’s problems are set to continue, says the Independent Monitoring Board in its 2022-23 annual report, released today. Together with a normalisation of only an hour a day out of cell for many, these conditions do nothing to address the previous Justice Secretary’s aim of giving prisoners ‘a better shot at rehabilitation’.

The Board further comments that:

  • many prisoners are released directly from court having received no resettlement preparation, and 40% of those released during the reporting year, from court or prison, were released with no accommodation to go to.
  • population pressures are affecting all aspects of prison life, including a resulting lack of sufficient full-time education and activity places for prisoners.
  • maintenance and repair of the prison’s crumbling fabric has not been well managed, and the continuing decrepit state of the prison is a serious concern for the Board.
  • problems with prisoner property both at Pentonville and on transfer from other prisons continue to cause much stress and frustration.

However, the Board recognises that:

  • there has been notable success in disrupting contraband coming into the prison through rigorous searching of staff, prisoners and visitors.
  • a bold new approach to supporting prisoners with a range of neurodevelopmental and neurological disorders saw the introduction of a new neurodiversity unit which has benefited prisoners throughout the establishment.
  • changes to healthcare management and processes have brought about much needed structural change and transparency.

Last August the Pentonville IMB reported that restricted regimes were undermining the rehabilitative purpose of prison and urged the then Justice Secretary to heed the Board’s findings. In December, the Board wrote directly to the Minister expressing grave concerns about plans to further increase the prisoner population to levels which posed a serious risk to safety, security, the proper running of the planned regime, and effective rehabilitation.

IMB Pentonville Chair, Alice Gotto, said: “Pentonville’s population has continued to increase over this reporting year. It is disappointing that this has happened despite detailed evidence from this Board and His Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons of the detrimental effect this would have on prisoners. For the second year running we received more calls from prisoners to the IMB helpline than any other prison in England and Wales. Despite the hard work of staff and management, Pentonville remains an unfit place for prisoners to live or to be rehabilitated.”