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Last Updated: Wednesday, 12 April 2006, 05:25 GMT 06:25 UK
Jail rapped over 'squalid' cells
Doncaster prison
Doncaster is one of four prisons run by Serco in the UK
The company which runs Doncaster Prison has been accused of "institutional meanness" after an inspection revealed "squalid" conditions.

Chief inspector of prisons Anne Owers said prison chiefs had let conditions slip since the last visit in 2003.

She was concerned that prison operator Serco's focus was on making savings to meet contractual obligations.

First-night cells at the jail were "squalid", with no hot water and "lumps of foam" as mattresses.

In other areas of the prison, which houses 1,120 inmates,, bedding was "heavily soiled", her report added.

'Festooned with graffiti'

Doncaster Prison opened in 1994 and is run by Serco, formerly known as Premier Prison Services.

The chief inspector's report said: "Respect was ... seriously undermined by the physical conditions in which many prisoners lived, which in some cases were squalid.

"Many prisoners lacked pillows, adequate mattresses, toilet seats, working televisions, notice-boards and places to store belongings.

"Some cells, especially on the young prisoners' wing, were dirty and festooned with graffiti.

"These were examples of an institutional meanness which was also reflected in the practice of making prisoners pay to change the PIN phone numbers they needed to contact relatives, and in the fact that no unemployment pay was provided to those prisoners for whom no work was available."

There remains a concern that in focusing on meeting their contractual obligations, prison managers had allowed important areas to slip below what was safe and decent
Anne Owers
Chief inspector of prisons

In 2003, Ms Owers said Doncaster was a good jail which needed to increase the amount of purposeful activities available - such as work or education - and improve first night facilities.

On her return last November, she found it had not tackled those problems and had slipped back in a number of other areas.

Ms Owers said overall Doncaster was "by no means a bad prison", and she commended its suicide prevention work as "innovative".

However, bullying was not properly addressed and only 29% of young ethnic minority prisoners reported that staff treated them well.

Making 156 recommendations for improvement, Ms Owers said: "Our main concern was not only that managers had failed to tackle problems we pointed out in our last inspection, but that the prison had deteriorated in some important respects - all in areas not mandated in the prison's contract.

'Population pressures'

"There remains a concern that in focusing on meeting their contractual obligations, prison managers had allowed important areas to slip below what was safe and decent, and indeed may have sought savings in precisely those areas."

A spokesman for Serco said: "This inspection, at a time of very high prison population pressures, identified some shortcomings which we have acted to address. It also highlighted many areas of good practice.

"We are proud of the safe and secure environment we provide at Doncaster and the service we provide to the criminal justice system of South Yorkshire."

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