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Prison inspection finds Whitemoor, March is 'squalid', 'dirty' and has lost its way

Whitemoor, March, is 'squalid', 'dirty' and has lost its way, according to a report just released by the Prisons Inspectorate.

It is described as “the dirtiest prison the Chief Inspector has seen” and said to be battling rodent infestation.

Whitemoor is one of two maximum security prisons to be criticised for their conditions and the way they operate and both are told they need to take urgent action to improve.

HMP Whitemoor, March
HMP Whitemoor, March

The inspection, carried out last December, found the prisons were effectively discharging their duties to keep dangerous criminals behind bars, but are missing important opportunities to support prisoners in reducing their future risk of harm.

Conditions at Whitemoor came in for serious criticism. It was described as being the dirtiest prison the Chief Inspector has seen, with what appeared to be a blood stain uncleaned for several days of the inspection, serveries left uncleaned overnight and overflowing rubbish and, unsurprisingly, was battling with rodent infestations.

Chief Inspector Charlie Taylor said: “Nobody should be held in the squalid conditions that we saw in these two prisons. The way a prison is maintained sends a strong signal about its general healthiness. I hope that each institution will use our inspection findings as the opportunity to reflect and hit reset.”

HMP Long Lartin in Worcestershire and Whitemoor both hold men serving long or indeterminate sentences and considered to pose a significant risk of harm to the public. At the time of the report, Whitemoor had 315 prisoners.

The report read: “The populations of high security prisons tend to be more stable than those where prisoners are serving shorter sentences, and there should therefore be ample opportunity for prison staff to build effective relationships with prisoners, supporting their longer-term reduction of risk. This was not evident in either jail.

“Key working, where a named member of staff meets regularly with a prisoner to support them through their time in custody, was not well used in either prison, and both had very poor regimes with too few prisoners taking part in interventions to reduce their risk, or education or employment to occupy their time meaningfully. At Whitemoor, an overcomplicated regime often led to activities or attendance at education being cancelled.

“Men spent most of their time locked alone in their cells and described a sense of hopelessness.”

The Chief Inspector commented: “High security prisons hold some of the most dangerous prisoners in England and Wales, and their first priority must of course be protecting the public by keeping them securely within prison walls. But reducing the risk posed by these men is also a vital part of the work of high security prisons: they should be supported in understanding their offending behaviour so that the risk that they pose to prison staff and other prisoners while detained, and to the public on release, is reduced.

He said both Long Lartin and Whitemoor had fundamentally lost their way. Neither prison was fulfilling this function effectively and they were not even discharging their duty to maintain clean and decent facilities. Both prisons need to take urgent action to improve.”

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