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Last Updated: Wednesday, 30 March, 2005, 11:11 GMT 12:11 UK
Women's jail 'still has problems'
Woman prisoner and baby
A prisoner and her baby daughter in a 'light room' at Holloway
There are still "fundamental problems" at the UK's largest women's prison, the prisons watchdog has said.

Chief Inspector of Prisons Anne Owers said Holloway, in north London, had improved but not as much as "expected".

She said inmates had to use sanitary towels as door plugs to keep rats out, or makeshift seats on filthy toilets.

Mrs Owers also criticised the holding of young girls at Holloway but Governor Tony Hassell said the last teenage prisoner would be moved this week.

Mrs Owers said: "Holloway has undoubtedly progressed since the last inspection but not to the extent that managers had hoped and we had expected.

This prison has had more than enough 'final chances' and if nobody can improve it, I believe it is time to make a radical decision about its future
Mark Leech, editor of the Prisons Handbook,

"The previous management team have tackled some of the acute problems with enthusiasm but aspects of the underlying culture remained unaddressed."

Hygiene on the juvenile and young women's unit was found to be poor.

Mr Hassell said a new women's jail in Peterborough was expected to take some of the pressure off the prison.

He said work on a new 5.8m healthcare centre was about to start, and he was confident Mrs Owers would see big improvements on her next visit.

'Feeling unsafe'

But Mark Leech, editor of the Prisons Handbook, said the prison should be demolished or privatised.

He said: "This prison has had more than enough 'final chances' and if nobody can improve it, I believe it is time to make a radical decision about its future."

Some 48% of inmates felt unsafe - compared with a benchmark of 28%, Mrs Owers said.

And of the 550 women at Holloway, 36% claimed they had been insulted or assaulted by other prisoners while 32% said staff victimised them.

It is quite clear from what Anne Owers has seen that they haven't moved forward
Sir David Ramsbotham

The previously praised drug and alcohol detoxification programme was found to have "significantly weakened" due to its acceleration.

Mrs Owers revealed that none of the staff working with children and young adults had undergone the required Criminal Records Bureau checks.

'Very sad'

She also found a court video link at Holloway was not used enough.

The previous Chief Inspector of Prisons, Sir David Ramsbotham, said he was "very sad" to hear that Mr Hassell felt the prison had moved on.

He said Holloway governors, or director generals, had made similar comments following his inspections a decade ago.

Sir David said: "It is quite clear from what Anne Owers has seen that they haven't moved forward. So what on earth is the director general saying?"

He told Radio 4's Today programme that, following his repeated recommendations, the authorities had allocated a designated person to oversee women's prisons, but they had since been removed.

"You've got to put somebody in charge of women's prisons who is responsible for overseeing that the recommendations that are made are implemented, and are consistently maintained," said Sir David.




BBC NEWS: VIDEO AND AUDIO
Sir David Ramsbotham discusses Ann Owers' criticisms



SEE ALSO:
In pictures: Holloway prison
29 Mar 05 |  In Pictures
Holloway: Screams and suicide
18 Feb 03 |  UK News


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