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The BBC's Jon Silverman
"Lord Woolf asks - do we think this a worthwhile expenditure?"
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Sir David Ramsbotham
"Brixton had been failed by ministers and the Prison Service"
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Tom Robson, of the Prison Officers' Association
"Prison officers are hardworking members of the community"
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Wednesday, 31 January, 2001, 09:36 GMT
Inspector condemns prison's failures
Brixton Prison
Conditions have deteriorated since the last inspection
Staff at Brixton Prison have been accused of sabotage and falsifying records in a hard-hitting inspection report.

The beleaguered jail in south London, already under investigation for being institutionally racist, was found to have such poor management that officers were allowed to get away with being lazy, dangerous and irresponsible.

The Chief Inspector of Prisons, Sir David Ramsbotham, said certain practices were "totally unacceptable" and conditions had deteriorated since his last inspection in 1996.

He described patient accommodation in the prison's health centre as "the worst he'd seen anywhere in England and Wales".

But the Prison Officers' Association claims some of the criticism is exaggerated.

Brixton Prison was branded as an institutionally and blatantly racist environment for inmates and staff from ethnic minorities in an internal investigation carried out for the Prison Service last year.

In the inspection report published on Wednesday, Sir David said ministers, prison service management and staff had failed Brixton.

'Appalling irresponsibility'

The report accuses health centre staff of deliberately falsifying records to give the impression they were keeping inmates at risk of suicide under constant watch.

Brixton is not itself a decent or respectable place

Juliet Lyon
Prison Reform Trust
Sir David describes this as "appalling irresponsibility".

He told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that an imaginative plan by a previous governor, which had included a workshop, education centre and gym, had been cancelled.

"Therefore in addition to Brixton failing its prisoners, Brixton itself had actually been failed by ministers and the Prison Service who hadn't given it the resources to do the job," he said.

He was highly critical of the Prison Service's management style where the emphasis was on paperwork, not grassroots supervision of prison staff.

And he described the hospital's conditions as filthy, including rusty pipes and windows caked in pigeon droppings.

In the report he said staff responsible for cutting wires on the alarm system, discovered during the inspection, should be disciplined.

Prison officers are hardworking members of the community

Tom Robson, of the Prison Officer Association
Tom Robson, of the Prison Officers Association,said there had been a lack of capital investment.

And he went as far as saying there had been "contrived neglect by the Prison Department regarding the hospital's conditions.

"Prison officers are hardworking members of the community. They do a very very difficult and dangerous job under difficult conditions," he said.

He added that a new management team was in place at the prison.

Earlier, a spokesman for the association said some of the claims in the report were clearly false and one was outlandish.


The director of the Prison Reform Trust, Juliet Lyon, said it was clear from the Chief Inspector's report that Brixton Prison could not hope to prevent re-offending and help people to lead responsible lives on release.

Brixton Prison
Brixton has been criticised for 'pitifully low levels of purposeful activity'
"Dogged by overcrowding, high rates of staff sickness, pitifully low levels of purposeful activity, endemic racism and constant changes of leadership, Brixton is not itself a decent or respectable place," she said.

"A failing prison is a process not an event. The question has to be asked - how did the Prison Service allow standards at Brixton to fall so disastrously low?"

Paul Cavadino, director of policy for the National Association for the Care and Resettlement of Offenders, said it was unacceptable for prisoners to be held in such conditions 10 years after the Woolf report called for an improvement in British prison regimes.

"For years staff at Brixton have been struggling to provide a regime in an overcrowded jail with reduced budgets, no workshops and no classrooms," he said.

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