December 11, 2012 8.29 am This story is over 133 months old

Lincoln Prison must make urgent improvements, report finds

Damning report: Lincoln Prison has been told it must make urgent improvements following an unannounced inspection.

Lincoln Prison has been told it must make urgent improvements following an unannounced inspection in August from HM Inspectorate of Prisons.

The category B Victorian jail was holding 50% more prisoners than it was certified to hold and was described as unsafe, overcrowded and dirty.

The report says Lincoln Prison deteriorated sharply since the last inspection in 2010 and a number of failings were discovered at the city prison.

Among the key findings:

  • High number of reported fights and assaults
  • One foreign national held 9 years over his sentence
  • Prisoners too frightened to leave their cells to go to work
  • Evidence of unequal treatments of black and minority prisoners
  • Dirty external and communal areas, overcrowded, with unscreened toilets
  • Prisoners say it’s easy to get drugs and alcohol
  • Some inmates developing addictions
  • Half of the prisoners locked in their cells during the working part of the day
  • New academy for work and education was almost empty when visited

Inspectors also highlighted some better points at Lincoln Prison, including good staff-prisoner relationships and resettlement services.

Nick Hardwick, Chief Inspector of Prisons, said “HMP Lincoln has some strengths it can build on.

“However, this was undermined by a serious lack of professionalism in many areas that compromised safety and the smooth running of the prison.

“Some of this required further investigation and action by the Prison Service nationally,” he added.

Andrew Neilson, The Howard League for Penal Reform’s Director of Campaigns, said: “If you want an example of the terrible consequences of overcrowding in our prison system, you need look no further than Lincoln. The damning inspectorate report is among the worst we have seen.

“This cramped and dirty prison holds 50% more people than it’s meant to, with 20% fewer staff in post than there were three years ago. Its shocking levels of violence and bullying are a symptom of this.

“Half of prisoners at Lincoln are unemployed and will spend no more than three hours a day outside of their cell, while, despite new facilities, education and training is minimal. Inspectors even found a foreign national prisoner, who had been held nine years beyond the end of his sentence.

“Lincoln’s future has been hanging in the balance and this report does little to suggest the prison should remain open,” Andrew Neilson.

As previously reported, ministers were looking at downgrading Lincoln Prison into an immigration centre, but local campaigning swayed this idea for now.

Lincoln MP Karl McCartney, who lobbied for the prison to remain as it is, said: “There are a number of areas within this report which Lincoln Prison will need to address, and I am sure that the new Governor will already be doing so.

“However, I am sure that the previous uncertainty surrounding the Prison’s future had an impact preceding and during the inspection. With the future of the Prison now secure and confirmed, I am confident that the Senior Management Team of HMP Lincoln will seek to build on the good relationship between staff and prisoners and embrace the recommendations of this report.

“I have met the Prison Governor and Members of his Senior Management Team, as well as Prison Officers and the Chairman of the Prison Officers Association at Lincoln Prison, and will do so again in the future when the negative issues in the report will be discussed in detail.”