Styal women’s prison is “still unable to meet the needs” of its vulnerable inmates, said chief inspector of prisons Anne Owers, as she published a new report today.
More than 40 per cent of inmates report feeling unsafe at Styal, up from 29 per cent during its last inspection in 2004.
Support and the regime on the prison’s Waite wing is “wholly unsatisfactory,” according to the inspection report.
Six women died at Styal between 2002 and 2003 and five of them lived on Waite wing. In 2005 the prisons ombudsman stressed that the regime on the wing must improve.
Self-harming at the prison is “prolific” and staff struggle to support extremely damaged inmates, the report finds.
The mother and baby unit has “drifted away from best practice” and failed to meet national guidelines or child protection requirements, it adds.
Owers emphasises that Styal is now “safer and better” than previously and that vital reception, first night and induction procedures are “transformed” into the “best seen in the women’s estate”.
But Styal is “in no way equipped to manage such a vulnerable population, nor should it be asked to do so,” according to Juliet Lyon, director of the Prison Reform Trust.
Commenting on proposed alternatives to custody, Lyon asked, “What has happened to mental health court diversion schemes, community drug treatment orders, women-only bail hostels, and the government’s ‘radical’ new approaches to women who offend?”
In 2005 the prisons ombudsman said the use of prison for vulnerable female offenders should be reduced, in his report on the death of Julie Walsh at Styal.
A review of services for female prisoners is being carried out by the Home Office and is due to report by the end of 2006.