Prison failing prisoners

By Jonathan Moore

The inspector of prisons has said HMP Styal is not able to meet the needs of its women prisoners, in a report out today.

Dame Anne Owers said the needs of the substance-dependent population of the women’s prison were “extreme, complex and growing”.

More than half of inmates said they had drug problems, with more than a third feeling depressed or suicidal and almost 40 percent with an alcohol problem, quadruple the amount at the last inspection.

Director of the Howard League for Penal Reform, Frances Crook, said: “Styal prison for women remains a blight on the landscape, a place of distress and death which has already seen one young woman, Alison Colk, take her life within its walls this year.

“The criticisms made by Anne Owers in today’s report on the treatment of vulnerable women, including an increased use of force and inadequacies in the management of safer custody policy, should surprise no one.

“Prison remains no place for women and the sooner Styal and its sister jails are closed the better.”

Dame Anne said there had been positive improvements in the care of the vulnerable women in the prison.

“However, this was not enough to meet the complex and sometimes acute needs of some of the women in their care,” she said.

“There is the prior question of whether such women should be in prison at all – but while they are, there is the need to provide a much better resourced and professionally led therapeutic environment to support them and the staff looking after them.”

The report did provide some positive points. It said relationships between staff and prisoners had noticeably improved and in particular diversity issues were well managed.

However, among major concerns were the lack of suitable healthcare for prisoners and the inadequate management of those most at risk.