Coronavirus: Prisoners forced to use buckets as toilets at jail for fortnight during pandemic | UK News


Prisoners were forced to use buckets as toilets and spent five months almost totally confined to cells at a jail, the chief inspector of prisons has said.

Concerns have been raised by Peter Clarke about HMP Erlestoke in Wiltshire during the pandemic.

He said that inmates were subjected to “degrading and unacceptable” treatment – with some waiting two weeks for cell toilets to be fixed.

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Robert Buckland has agreed to address the issues at HMP Erlestoke
Image: Justice Secretary Robert Buckland has agreed to address the issues at the prison

Others were left without the ability to properly clean themselves, and a doubling in the use of force by staff on inmates since the start of lockdown was also reported.

He also said he found a “very troubling” picture of violence, disorder and self-harm.

Inspectors were also disturbed by the discovery of “significant amounts” of Hooch alcopops inside the jail – 370 litres since the start of the pandemic.

“Racist” graffiti was also found, alongside broken cell windows with sharp shards of glass, blocked toilets and broken showers.

The inspector has been in contact with Justice Secretary Robert Buckland, who agreed to address the issues.

HMP Erlestoke holds around 500 prisoners and is a category C facility – the third most serious designation.

Mr Clarke said he found a “lack of leadership and oversight” in the segregation unit – essentially solitary confinement – which was deemed “especially concerning”.

The report, which was carried out last month, said: “We saw treatment that was degrading and unacceptable.

“We found one prisoner and were made aware of two others who had been without toilets, running water and a cell call bell system for approximately two weeks. They had been given buckets while waiting for cell toilets to be fixed.

“There were also serious safeguarding concerns about the lack of social care provision.

“We found vulnerable adults who had been left unable to complete basic tasks, such as cleaning themselves or their cells properly, or collecting food.”

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Mr Clarke said in general the response to the coronavirus pandemic at the prison “has led to a less safe, less decent and less purposeful prison”.

A Prison Service spokesman said: “We have taken immediate action to address all the issues raised in this report, with a focus on improving safety and living standards.

“A programme of repair work is under way across the prison, with the majority of work expected to be completed by the end of the month.

“We are urgently working to identify additional improvements we can make to prisoner safety and Erlestoke will receive additional staff training and specialist support to help drive down violence.”