Anne Owers appalled by treatment of disabled at prison

A report into conditions at HMP Parkhurst on the Isle of Wight has revealed the shocking treatment of disabled prisoners, some of whom were denied access to shower washing facilities for months on end. 

Following an unannounced inspection of the facility in December 2008, chief inspector of prisons Anne Owers said today that inspectors had been “appalled” by the treatment of the small number of disabled prisoners. She said the institution “lacked basic levels of safety and decency”.

Unable to shower for over a year

Due to lack of staff support, one prisoner with mobility difficulties had not been able to shower for over a year. Another wheelchair user had not been able to shower for six months because the three staff members who were prepared to push his wheelchair were not available.

Inspectors also found that bullying and violence were “endemic” throughout the prison, with 75% of vulnerable prisoners reporting that they had felt unsafe at some point.

Third of vulnerable felt ‘unsafe’

Thirty-seven per cent of vulnerable prisoners also said they currently felt unsafe, far above the average level found in similar prisons.

In addition, health service provision was labelled “weak” and only 60% of staff had been given training in self-harm monitoring procedures.

Owers said that the prison had a “long and chequered history”.

Failing prison

She added: “In many ways, Parkhurst is a failing prison: prisoners feel unsafe and poorly treated, and neither the environment nor the regime are suited to the role of a modern training prison.”

Juliet Lyon, director of the Prison Reform Trust, called on the Prison Service to comply with its responsibilities under the Disability Discrimination Act.

‘Double punishment’

She said: “At Parkhurst prison disabled people are serving a double punishment where they are held in a poorly performing prison and one which clearly neglects their needs.”

The director general of the National Offender Management Service, Phil Wheatley, said that he accepted Owers’ criticisms. He added: “Parkhurst now forms part of HMP Isle of Wight, whose governor has embarked from 1 May this year on a radical programme of change with the help of a new senior management team.

“I am determined that the creation of the new prison and the associated restructuring will deliver the changes required.” 

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