Coldingley: annual report by independent monitors reveals outmoded conditions

The Independent Monitoring Board at HMP Coldingley, made up of volunteers appointed by ministers to ensure prisoners are treated humanely, states in its 2018/19 annual report published today that four of the five major residential blocks in the Bisley prison are still without in-cell sanitation or wash basins.

To use the lavatory at night, a prisoner must press a bell and wait in a queue to use the toilets on the landing. And if the facilities are not available in time, prisoners have to use buckets in their cell as a toilet and ‘slop out’ (empty the buckets) in the morning.

In its report, the Coldingley IMB notes that:

  • Significant efforts are made to ensure that prisoners are treated fairly. For example, data is collected to determine whether prisoners from certain ethnic backgrounds are searched more frequently than others. There are 17 religions in the prison and a number of faith leaders and volunteers support the Chaplaincy staff.
  • The Governor and staff have made strenuous efforts to address the violence, bullying and debt problems within the prison and a valuable role has also been played by prison orderlies (prisoners trusted with extra responsibilities). Violent incidents are investigated thoroughly by prison staff.
  • The IMB recognises the work undertaken by prison officers, often under very difficult circumstances, and with commendable sensitivity to the needs of vulnerable prisoners. Considerable efforts are also made by non-uniformed staff, including workshop instructors and education staff, to support prisoners.

However, the lack of in-cell sanitation is unacceptable in 2019 and requires urgent action.

IMB Coldingley Chair, Heather Cook, said:

“As volunteers, Board members are independent of the prison authorities and spend a lot of time in the prison talking with prisoners and staff. Generally, prisoners say the food at Coldingley is better than they have had in other prisons and they appreciate the special events held, such as Black History Week.

“However, the biggest problem with Coldingley is the fabric of the four older wings, built in 1969. These wings are in a poor state; they are almost impossible to keep clean and any refurbishment has been cosmetic. In particular, the lavatories and sluices fall a long way short of acceptable standards, with frequent blockages and broken doors. The fact that prisoners have to queue to use the facilities at night inevitably means that ‘slopping out’ is still a feature of prison life.”