Leaked documents and photos reveal that prisoners at HMP Liverpool are living in the worst conditions ever seen in UK jails.
Being made aware of concerns about living conditions, prison inspectors made an unannounced visit to the institution in September and were horrified by what they found.
Rats and cockroaches were everywhere, there was exposed electrical wiring in cells, leaking lavatories and many prisoners were being locked up for over 22 hours.
According to BBC News, which has seen the leaked report, one area of the prison was so infested and hazardous it couldn’t even be cleaned, while there was a rise in self-harm incidents as inmates did not feel safe living there.
The Ministry of Justice is yet to comment on the leaked report which describes ‘an abject failure to offer a safe, decent and purposeful environment’.
It added that the ‘highly experienced’ inspection team ‘could not recall having seen worse living conditions than those at HMP Liverpool’.
The chief inspector, Peter Clarke, told the BBC:
I found a prisoner who had complex mental health needs being held in a cell that had no furniture other than a bed.
The windows of both the cell and the toilet recess were broken, the light fitting in his toilet was broken with wires exposed, the lavatory was filthy and appeared to be blocked, his sink was leaking and the cell was dark and damp.
Extraordinarily, this man had apparently been held in this condition for some weeks.
It is hard to understand how the leadership of the prison could have allowed the situation to deteriorate to this extent.
We saw clear evidence that local prison managers had sought help from regional and national management to improve conditions they knew to be unacceptable long before our arrival, but had met with little response.
We could see no credible plan to address these basic issues.
Half of the prisoners told inspectors they had been victimised by staff while a third added that they felt unsafe living at HMP Liverpool.
Significant leadership failure led to an increase in violence of all kinds in the prison fuelled by the ready availability of drugs and unrestricted use of force by officers not being managed correctly.
Many gave inmates unofficial punishments and had what was described as a ‘dismissive’ attitude to prisoners.
Remarkably when the inspection was carried out there were more than 2,000 uncompleted maintenance jobs with only 22 out of the 89 recommendations from the last poor inspection in 2015 fully implemented.
Lord Ramsbotham, a former chief inspector of prisons, was astounded at the report saying:
It’s as bad a report as I’ve ever seen.
But… how could anyone come up from headquarters, go into Liverpool and not feel ashamed about it?
How on Earth did the head of the prison service allow the prison to get into that state?
These are the questions that need answering especially since prisons across England and Wales are under increased pressure thanks to the coalition government’s dramatic budget cuts.
'How on Earth did the head of the prison service allow the prison to get into that state?' Asks former prison
Chief Inspector Lord Ramsbotham of HMP Liverpool. Well a defensive, detached HQ culture racked with a lethal combination of arrogance and ineptitude certainly helps.
— Ian Acheson (@NotThatBigIan) December 18, 2017
This HMP Liverpool report which applies to other Prisons as well, should not be pointing fingers at the leadership of MoJ. This is due to poor management at local and regional level, lack of engagement from maintenance contractor (since privatisation).
— Junaid (@ibrownlad) December 19, 2017
The cuts have had a huge impact on prisons which have seen a rise in suicides, violence, self-harm and assaults.
Only two months after the inspectors left HMP Liverpool the BBC was informed of two suicides and the death of a third inmate and another left with ‘life-changing injuries’.
A draft of the report obtained by the BBC said:
…there is a lack of support for people with mental health needs, and in-patients have an impoverished regime.
There had been failures of leadership and management at all levels.
The governor, Peter Francis, was removed within days of the inspection being replaced last week by former officer Pia Sinha.
I am involved in lots of cases involving prisons – including deaths, violence, rehabilitation. The picture across the UK is the same: not enough staff, not enough money, low morale
— Adam Wagner (@AdamWagner1) December 18, 2017
Still, the question remains, now the shocking conditions have been reported how long will change take?
Emily Murray is a journalist at UNILAD. She graduated from the University of Leeds with a BA in English Literature and History before studying for a Masters in Journalism at the University of Salford. Emily has previously worked for the BBC, ITV and Trinity Mirror. When Emily isn’t writing about topics including mental health and entertainment, you can find her at the cinema which is her second home.