Page last updated at 09:20 GMT, Thursday, 8 May 2008 10:20 UK

Prison toilets are 'unacceptable'

Prison door
The report revealed a "chronic shortage of staff" at HMP Albany

A prison for sex offenders has been branded as "unacceptable" after inmates were made to use buckets instead of a toilet.

Chief Inspector of Prisons Anne Owers said the sanitary system on five wings at HMP Albany on the Isle of Wight was not up to 21st Century standards.

The criticism came in a report published on Thursday following an inspection in November last year.

The Prison Service said the toilets have since been upgraded.

But the Prison Reform Trust has blamed overcrowding for HMP Albany's failings.

"Albany has an important, difficult and specialist role," said Ms Owers.

"This inspection found that it was in general a safe prison with well-run and effective treatment programmes.

"However, the prison as a whole was not taking a sufficiently proactive and coherent approach to its task.

The knock-on damage of a chronically overcrowded prison system is clear to see at Albany prison
Juliet Lyon
Prison Reform Trust

"It was not helped by national policies, which failed to properly allocate prisoners, or by needing to use accommodation which is not fit for purpose."

The report revealed a "serious and chronic shortage of staff" at the specialist category B men's training prison, which meant that only basic health interventions could be delivered.

Other criticisms included "distant and mistrustful" relationships between staff and prisoners, particularly for ethnic minority inmates.

It said the systems to protect prisoners against bullying and self-harm were "not sufficiently robust".

The report praised the range of activities provided and said public protection work was good, and offending behaviour programmes were run to a very high standard.

But too few prisoners were accessing them, the report added.

In 2006, at least 60 people at the high-security jail launched legal action claiming their human rights were breached and demanding thousands in compensation because they did not have 24-hour access to toilets.

Instead, they have to press a button to leave their cell and use the toilet but if this fails they are issued with lidded buckets.

Juliet Lyon, director of the Prison Reform Trust, said: "Albany's work is vital for public safety and needs to be properly resourced.

"It is therefore extremely worrying to learn that relationships between staff and prisoners were distant and mistrustful... and buckets had to be issued to prisoners on five wings because of a night sanitation system that is unacceptable in a 21st Century prison.

"The knock-on damage of a chronically overcrowded prison system is clear to see at Albany prison."

Phil Wheatley, director general of the Prison Service, said the clustering of the Isle of Wight prisons will create benefits and efficiencies and would not impact on the specialist nature of Albany's role.

He added: "Access to the toilet at Albany during long periods of lock up is provided by an electronically controlled unlocking system.

"The night sanitation system is monitored daily to ensure that it is as effective as possible and facilities are available to all prisoners in the event of an emergency.

"The system has now been upgraded and problems resolved."




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