28/09/2006

Pentonville prison criticised in report

Pentonville prison, the busiest in London, is vermin-infested and is often unable to meet the basic requirements of prisoners, a new report has found.

The report, which followed an unannounced inspection of Pentonville by the Chief Inspector of Prisons Anne Owers in June, found that the jail was overrun by cockroaches and rats. There was also an "unusually high" number of alleged assaults by prison officers on inmates, the report said.

Around 55% of prisoners said that they felt unsafe in Pentonville, while 42% said that it was easy to obtain drugs in the prison.

The report also said the prison often lacked basic requirements for prisoners, such as pillows and toothbrushes. The report even claimed that at times there was no guarantee that prisoners would receive a cooked meal.

Juliet Lyon, director of the Prison Reform Trust, called for Pentonville to be closed.

She said: "The Pentonville of this report would be more in place in Hogarth's Gin Lane than Islington today.

"This impoverished, chaotic prison is clearly not fit for purpose. For many people time spent in Pentonville will be a brutalizing, damaging experience that does nothing to contribute to public safety.

"The Home Secretary must now decide whether Pentonville can be hauled into the twenty first century or if he should cut his losses and use this as an opportunity to sell up and divert funding into bail provision, mental health, drug alcohol treatment and more effective community penalties for petty offenders."

(KMcA/EF)

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