Bullying and theft a ‘fact of life’ at Holloway prison

Bullying and pilfering is rife at Holloway women’s prison and more than half of inmates feel unsafe, according to a report today by Anne Owers, the chief inspector of prisons.

Although the prison had shown improvements in other areas, levels of victimisation had risen to nearly double that of other comparable female prisons and was “an accepted fact of life”.

The inspection in June found Holloway’s violence reduction strategy was”not yet sufficiently effective” in preventing and dealing with victimisation and bullying.

Use of force

Levels of self-harm among inmates – particularly young adults – remained high, with 88 incidents reported each month on average, Anne Owers found.

Concerns were also raised about use of force at Holloway, which held 465 women at the time of the inspection, with many incidents involving mentally disturbed inmates in the healthcare unit. 

Some women with severe mental illness were also waiting “far too long” to be transferred to secure NHS facilities.

“Holloway, like all other women’s prisons, is holding women who should not be held there, and whose continued imprisonment is detrimental to them, to the prison and to the long-term interests of society at large,” Owers said.

Poor care plans

Care plans also remained poor at the prison’s mother and baby unit despite other positive developments. Inspectors highlighted the need for support plans for women separated from their babies at birth or staying elsewhere in the prison.

Owers said Holloway prison had “travelled a considerable distance” since its last full inspection in October 2004. But she called for “robust action” on bullying and victimisation and a clear strategy for the women’s secure estate, including Holloway. 

Phil Wheatley, director general of the National Offender Management Service, said: “The need to improve women’s feelings of safety is recognised and is being acted on. Holloway has now implemented a new violence reduction strategy, produced following consultation with women on safety issues.”

More information

Chief inspector of prisons

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