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HMP Wandsworth Urgent Notification

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Urgent Notification letter, issued on 9 May 2024

Inspection debriefing paper

Quote from Charlie Taylor, Chief Inspector: “The poor outcomes we found at Wandsworth are systemic and cultural failures and stemmed from poor leadership at every level of the prison, from HMPPS and the Ministry of Justice. Many well-meaning and hard-working leaders and staff persevered at Wandsworth, and their resilience was impressive, but they were often fighting against a tide of cross-cutting, intractable problems that require comprehensive, long-term solutions. 

“For this troubled prison to begin to recover, Wandsworth needs permanent experienced leaders at all levels who are invested in its long-term future to improve security, safety and guide their less experienced colleagues. Until this happens, the risk of a further catastrophe, a self-inflicted death or escape from lawful custody, is ever present.”

‘I have issued an Urgent Notification for the following reasons:

Despite a high-profile escape from Wandsworth in September 2023, inspectors found significant weaknesses in many aspects of security. Wings were chaotic and staff across most units were unable to confirm where all prisoners were during the working day. There was no reliable roll that could assure leaders that all prisoners were accounted for. Given the recent escape, it was unfathomable that leaders had not focussed their attention on this area.

There had been 10 self-inflicted deaths since the last inspection, seven of which had occurred in the last 12 months. The rate of self-harm was high and rising, and yet around 40% of emergency cell bells were not answered within five minutes.

Overall rates of violence, including serious assaults, had increased since the last inspection and were higher than most similar prisons. In our survey, 69% of prisoners said they had felt unsafe at Wandsworth.

Over half (51%) of prisoners surveyed said it was easy to get illicit drugs and the smell of cannabis was ubiquitous.’

Charlie Taylor, HM Chief Inspector of Prisons

The full list of reasons Wandsworth’s Urgent Notification was issued can be read in the letter above.