The decision to close HMP/YOI Holloway was announced on 25 November 2015 and the last prisoners left the prison on 17 June 2016.
The closure of the prison meant the loss of well-established and effective teams which had a depth of experience engaging with safer custody, mental and physical health and substance misuse. There is no longer any prison for women in London or easily accessible from London on public transport. It is now more difficult and expensive for families and children to visit women in prison.
For several years prior to the announcement of the closure, IMB monitoring found Holloway to be a safe and decent prison, in particular:
- there was good support for the many women in custody in Holloway who were vulnerable and had adverse or traumatic life experiences and complex needs, including poor physical and mental health and drug and alcohol addiction.
- staff worked hard to help women to maintain contact with their families and a variety of arrangements were in place to encourage and facilitate visits from children.
- Holloway had made good progress towards becoming a local resettlement prison, greatly assisted by its central London location and good transport links.
The 2015 annual report set out questions to the Minister in the light of Holloway’s closure, relating to provision for women prisoners with mental health problems, family contact, resettlement and housing. No responses have yet been received.
This report focuses on the IMB’s monitoring of the management of the prison and the experience of prisoners in Holloway from January to June 2016. The first few months were particularly unsettled and challenging. Tragically, there was a death in custody in January 2016 although there is no suggestion that this was in any way linked to the closure process The IMB raised a number of concerns with prison management and with the Secretary of State for Prisons. These are set out in the report along with the responses received.
Overall the IMB found that the risks identified were well managed in the closure process. There was a focus on keeping women safe and good healthcare provision continued. The most vulnerable women and those with complex needs were transferred to other prisons or to secure hospitals at an early stage in the process. Work and activity continued to be available until women left the prison.
While the IMB concluded that the last months and the closure were managed well, concern remains about whether provision for women prisoners in the future is protected or improved by the closure of a prison which was well located, staffed by strong and committed multidisciplinary teams and which had been continually improving over recent years.