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Last Updated: Wednesday, 5 May, 2004, 09:52 GMT 10:52 UK
Women inmates forced to slop out
Bullwood Hall
Bullwood Hall was praised for its programmes, but not its toilets
A women's prison has been condemned for the "unacceptable" and "degrading" practice of slopping out.

Anne Owers, Chief Inspector of Prisons criticised a lack of integral sanitation at Bullwood Hall, Essex.

At night, inmates must be taken to toilets, and due to delays, some were reduced to using "potties" or having to clear up contents thrown from windows.

And Ms Owers said staff were not always present in the wings, which had led to some incidents of intimidation.

She said allowing unsupervised individuals to "threaten and frighten" others through cell doors had implications for safety at the prison.

The girls come and go and do what they need to do, and they don't really care. I don't take much notice of it, really.
Kate,
Inmate, Bullwood Hall
"It is simply unacceptable for women and girls, some of them pregnant, to be slopping out, in what is listed as one of the Prison Service's highest-performing prisons," she said.

"At the last inspection, we recommended that in-cell sanitation should be installed at Bullwood Hall. This should now be done as a matter or urgency."

Governor Tony Hassell told BBC Look East that integral sanitation would "cost a lot of money and it would mean the loss of quite a large chunk of accommodation at the prison".

An inmate called "Kate", who is serving a three-year sentence for arson at Bullwood, said she was not bothered by the inconvenience.

She said: "The girls come and go and do what they need to do, and they don't really care. I don't take much notice of it, really."

Cell at Bullwood Hall
The report says staff shortages mean less time outside cells
But Ms Owers said the lack of toilets, along with staff shortages, posed underlying and "debilitating" pressures on the jail.

The report, based on December's inspection, noted that a shortage of staff meant that women and girls had to curtail time out of their cells, she added.

But she said, unlike some other jails, what was available to inmates was at least provided "regularly and consistently" and had been agreed with the women themselves.

She praised the closed training establishment for providing a stable environment with good staff-prisoner relationships.

She said the population was "demanding" and "volatile" with an average of 20 suicide attempts and 56 incidents of self-harm a month.


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Three Rs behind bars
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