Lack of adequate resettlement provision and increasing number of those with serious mental health issues a major concern, says IMB

In its 2020-21 annual report, the Independent Monitoring Board at HMP Wandsworth praises the Governor and staff who showed great concern for the welfare of everyone at the establishment, whilst operating under immense pressure with skill and imagination throughout a year dominated by the Covid pandemic.

The Board’s report raises a number of issues for the Governor, the Prison Service and Ministers to address, including:

  • After a brief improvement with a change of provider, the quality of the resettlement provision, which is crucial to reducing re-offending, continued to cause very serious concern: The monthly average of prisoners released into settled housing was between 18% and 49 %. Of those with a stated need only 24% had any agreed employment, training or education places post release.
  • Home Office immigration officers left the prison at the start of the pandemic and did not return during the whole of this year’s reporting period, leaving foreign nationals (who comprised 49% of the population) with no onsite official guidance to help resolve their issues. This was most unsatisfactory and was often a contributory factor to prisoners self-harming.
  • Mental health continued to be a major concern. The mental health team received an average of 510 referrals a month (compared with 424 last year) and was overwhelmed.
  • Prisoners were treated fairly and with respect but the conditions in which they were confined – often two to a cell for up to 23.5 hours a day as a result of the severely restricted regime – were inhumane.  This will only improve when there are substantial structural changes to the 170 year old buildings

The HMP Wandsworth  IMB Chair, Tim Aikens, said:

Whilst the Governor and his staff have done an excellent job during the pandemic, there is still much to do to turn this 170 year old prison into a safe and decent establishment that sends men back into the community with a low chance of reoffending.