Following inspections of the conditions in three jails, Elmley on the Isle of Sheppey, Altcourse in Liverpool, and Wandsworth in South London, findings emerged that prisoners with coronavirus symptoms were locked in cells for up to two weeks without being allowed out to shower, according to a report.
Peter Clarke, the chief inspector of prisons, said in a report published yesterday, “The vast majority were locked up for nearly the whole day with usually no more than half an hour out of their cells.”
Additionally he said, “We also saw too many staff were unnecessarily crowding into small offices in some prisons. It was obvious that important messages were not always fully understood or practised. We found some examples of even greater restrictions. In one prison, a small number of symptomatic prisoners had been isolated in their cells without any opportunity to come out for a shower or exercise for up to 14 days.”
Wandsworth, the jail in question, had made the decision “in consultation with Public Health England, and as a result of the lack of space for a protective isolation unit”, the report said.
As such more than 100 inmates who had symptoms of Covid-19 had to self-isolate and the inspection found that most inmates still had daily access to a shower. The Victorian prison’s “physical limitations” had a “severe impact” and cramped accommodation and narrow landings made social distancing “extremely difficult” in some parts of each prison despite efforts, such as cleaning, to make the buildings safer.
Chief executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform, Frances Crook, stated, “The Government’s strategy to restrict the spread of coronavirus in prisons relies on tens of thousands of people being held in either overcrowded conditions or prolonged solitary confinement. This is neither humane nor sustainable.”
So far, coronavirus cases have been confirmed in 74 prisons, and 21 inmates have died.