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Tuesday, 3 September, 2002, 03:21 GMT 04:21 UK
Scrubs 'sliding back' to bad habits
Wormwood Scrubs
Wormwood Scrubs has faced much criticism
Wormwood Scrubs jail is still riddled with serious problems four years after a culture of staff brutality was exposed, according to the Chief Inspector of Prisons.

The west London jail had "stalled", or was "sliding backwards" in areas that had begun to improve at the last inspection two years ago, it has emerged.

Although the 1,000-inmate prison is now rid of rogue officers who violently assaulted inmates, the institution is still struggling to move forward and make progress, an official report suggests.

However the director general of the Prison Service has rejected many of the criticisms.


Our inspectors found themselves once again being provided with promises, plans and hopes, rather than achievements and outcomes

Anne Owers, Chief Inspector of Prisons
In the report, Chief Inspector of Prisons Anne Owers said earlier signs of improvement at Wormwood had "failed to blossom".

"We found management weaknesses and gaps through which we feared the old culture could re-emerge."

Police carried out an investigation into 100 officers in the late 1990s over allegations of staff brutality, which resulted in 27 suspensions.

Three prison officers were jailed last year for a "sadistic" attack on an inmate.

In her introduction to the 213-page report, Ms Owers said Wormwood Scrubs was "less healthy" than it had been 22 months earlier.

She said: "Our inspectors found themselves once again being provided with promises, plans and hopes, rather than achievements and outcomes."

Huge challenge

However, the Director General of the Prison Service, Martin Narey, said some of the criticisms were unfair.

"I reject firmly the Inspectorate's conclusions," he said.

"The unacceptable treatment of prisoners and the use of violence against them has been eradicated at Wormwood Scrubs.

Martin Narey, Director General of the Prison Service
Martin Narey: Rejects report's conclusions
"The Inspectorate has severely underestimated the challenge in so dramatically reforming a prison of this size and complexity.

"I think the chief inspector makes it very plain that in spite of coming in here for 10 days with a record number of inspectors, she found no evidence whatsoever of the re-emergence of brutality."

Criticisms in the report include:

  • The health care centre had deteriorated to an "appalling state"
  • Almost half of inmates questioned said they sometimes felt unsafe in the prison
  • The anti-bullying strategy was "ineffective"
  • Frequent changes in senior management and poor staff training meant no continuity.

    On a positive note, Ms Owers said inspectors found no culture of brutality by officers towards prisoners.

    Prison governor Keith Munns said he was hopeful there would be no repeat of the events of the late 90s.

    No troubles

    He said: "The staff and systems now in place will not allow any violent culture to emerge."

    Inmates told reporters they had not suffered bad experiences with prison officers at the jail.

    Jason, 29, who has served 18 months of a six-year sentence for a drugs offence, said: "I haven't had any trouble here at all. I've found all the staff helpful.

    "When I found out I was coming here from court it frightened me a little bit but when I got here, it was very different to what I expected it to be.

    Wormwood Scrubs governor Keith Munns
    Keith Munns: Violent culture will not re-emerge
    "From what I had heard, it was a pretty nasty prison at one stage, but I haven't seen any of that.

    "If you treat staff with respect, I think they treat you with respect."

    Christian, 37, serving five years for supply of Class A drugs, said: "I've not had any problems.

    "I've heard talk of all these things that used to happen here but I've not seen it."

    The director of the Howard League for Penal Reform, Frances Crook, said Ms Owers was "absolutely right" to warn that a violent culture could re-emerge.

    She said: "Prisons that are under pressure like this can show it in a number of different ways - staff brutality, riots, suicides and even staff suicides."

  •  WATCH/LISTEN
     ON THIS STORY
    The BBC's Rory Maclean
    "The report warns that management failing could allow brutality to re-emerge"
    Prison Reform Trust's Juliet Lyons
    "There are scarcely enough staff to go round"

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