Saturday, 14 August 2010

Further failure documented - the only answer for Styal Prison is closure

This was published on the No More Prison Website in 2006

The publication this week of the Inspectorate of Prisons report on Styal Prison confirms that it is still a desperate and failing institution. It contains many recommendations but fails to identify the one simple solution - close Styal Prison.

The reality of Styal - humiliation, abuse, pain and lack of care

Key findings of the inspection team include:
  • The use of violent force by Prison Officers on prisoners had doubled in the last two years
  • An increase in prisoners being assulted and in levels of bullying
  • Serious self harming is "prolific" and is responded to by prison staff using force and confinement in punishment cells.
  • Women who self harmed were being routinely stripped as punishment.
  • The use of "unfurnished" cells has increased by 250% in two years
  • No support was given to many self harming women
  • The mother and baby unit failed to meet child protection standards
  • The Prison is not reviewing "near-death" incidents to learn lessons
  • The Food in the prison remains very bad and unhealthy in content and in preparation.
  • Many of the toilets were unscreened
  • All day child visits had been stopped
  • Many new prisoners were not being issued with even a single bra.
  • The "Segregation unit" had been renamed the "Care, support and reintegration unit"

Who we lock up - the powerless and abused

The report also included details of the women that we lock up in Styal:

  • The majority of women caged have been victims of rape or other serious assults
  • There are high levels of mental illness and acute mental distress
  • 80% had serious and longstanding substance misuse problems
  • 60% are mothers
  • The vast majority are "low risk" and with no histories of violence
Lies exposed

The Report challenges the Prison's own account of the regime experienced by women effectively accusing the Governor and his staff of lying about the time women spend out of the cells. They point out that despite the Prison claiming women are allowed out of their cells for 11 hours a day the reality is that the most vulnerable are locked up for 19 hours or more a day. Such evidence suggests the reality of Styal is likely to be far more painful, brutal and abusive than is claimed by the Governor.

Recommendations - keep trying!!
Despite all the good work done by the Inspectorate in exposing some of the reality of Britain's prisons they tend to disappoint when it comes to recommendations of what is to be done. The Inspectorate never forget that there belief in Prison and the suggested "improvements" they ask for reflect this belief. They make hundreds of recommendations when only one was really necessary.

Styal has failed it should be closed.

To maintain this ludicrous perspective that Styal could be a "healthy place" requires great naivety and many of the recommendations reflect this. On race relations after failing to make a recommendation in the last report they this time boldly request that:

Managers should discuss with the prisoner race relations committee the reasons that black and minority ethnic women prisoners have a different perception of their treatment than white women prisoners, and aim to address those differences.
Was it too much for them to consider the reason was racism?

Styal must close

The report fails to mention the Government's plans to double the size of Styal increasing dramatically the abuse, hard and pain this evil place inflicts on powerless and abused women. No More Prison is committed to resisting this expansion and instead calling for the immediate closure of Styal.

Styal has no future. It is unreformable. It is a place of abuse, pain and death. Close it now


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