Howard League responds to progress report on Lowdham Grange prison

The Howard League for Penal Reform has responded to HM Inspectorate of Prisons’ independent review of progress report on Lowdham Grange prison, published today (Tuesday 20 February).

A full inspection of the prison, near Nottingham, in May 2023 had uncovered a host of concerns in relation to safety and public protection. When inspectors returned in January 2024, they found that none of these problems had been resolved. The prison was desperately short-staffed, as 127 staff had resigned in only 10 months.

Lowdham Grange opened in 1998 and was run for 25 years by Serco. In February 2023, the contract was transferred to Sodexo. By December 2023, conditions had deteriorated so dramatically that the Ministry of Justice decided to ‘step in’ and take over the running of the prison.

Inspectors found that the men living in prison were frustrated as basic requests were not being dealt with. Health care was being undermined by staff shortages and inadequate oversight of services. There were weakness in case management processes for men at risk of suicide or self-harm, and levels of self-harm had increased considerably.

Andrea Coomber KC (Hon.), Chief Executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform, said: “The continuing problems at Lowdham Grange should remind everyone that, while crumbling Victorian prisons get most attention, there are major issues in newer jails as well.

“This prison only opened a quarter of a century ago, but like so many others it is paralysed by staff shortages and is failing to meet even the basic needs of the hundreds of men living there. This report confirms what the men tell the Howard League, that not enough is being done to support people in mental health crisis and to keep them safe.

“It exposes the fallacy of the government’s plan to solve the prisons crisis by building new jails. Any serious attempt to reduce crime should begin with investment in housing, education and jobs.”