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HMP Featherstone: Prison in need of major repair as inmates endure 'totally unacceptable' living conditions

By Alex Ross | South Staffordshire | News | Published:

Inspectors have hit out at the 'disgraceful' state of the majority of showers and the need for all cell windows to be replaced.

An independent report says HMP Featherstone, which opened in 1976, is ‘in urgent need of major refurbishment and repair’

Living conditions for prisoners at HMP Featherstone have been branded ‘totally unacceptable' and 'unfit for purpose'.

An Independent Monitoring Boards (IMB) report, released this week, said the prison was in 'urgent need of major refurbishment and repair, if not complete rebuilding in some areas'.

It said relationships between staff and inmates has improved, but problems still exist over ‘very poor living conditions’ at the jail.

The prison was subject to a damning inspection by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons (HMIP) for England and Wales last year, with the inspectorate raising concerns over safety, relationships between prisoners and the state of the Category C prison.

In the IMB's report, vice-chairman Keith Hollinshead noted an increase in staffing numbers and improved feelings between them and the prisoners.

But he highlighted serious concerns over poor living conditions at the prison.

Disgraceful

In the report, Mr Hollinshead said: “On the one hand, we have seen a marked improvement in the number of prison officers and this in turn has lead to improvements in the relationships between prisoners and staff.

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“On the other, we are seriously concerned about the very poor living conditions that some prisoners have to endure.

“The board feels that for some, the conditions are totally unacceptable and unfit for purpose. The prison is now over 40 years old and is in urgent need of major refurbishment and repair, if not complete rebuilding in some areas.”

He said cell windows needed replacing and described the state of the majority of showers as ‘disgraceful’.

Aside from an improvement in staff and prisoner relations, the IMB said it was pleased additional CCTV had been installed. Body cameras had been given to staff and the introduction of a Prison Council had been ‘inspirational’. But the report also raised concerns over the number of drugs, mobile phones and tobacco being brought into prison via drones and visitors.

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The report said: “The sale of illegal items is big business in prisons and this often results in some prisoners spiralling into debt, bullying, assaults and for some, self-isolation.”

The IMB is yet to hear back from the MoJ following the publication of its report, which was sent to the Government department a month in advance. But an MoJ spokesman said: “Since this report HMP Featherstone has taken urgent, decisive action to crack down on contraband entering the prison. The prison has increased the use of intelligence-led searches, as well as deploying sniffer dogs and additional drug testing to find and remove illicit substances.

“Offenders caught with illegal items risk being referred to the police and may face additional time behind bars.”

He added that refurbishment works for the prison were being considered. The prison, which opened in 1976, had 603 prisoners at the time of the IMB inspection by the IMB.

This has gone up since the reopening of House 5, which was closed following disorder in August.

Alex Ross

By Alex Ross
Investigations Editor - @alexross_star

Invesitgations Editor at the Express & Star. Everyone has a story - tell me yours.

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