HM Wormwood Scrubs reported more than 200 assaults, including 90 attacks against staff in six months to July, leaving growing numbers of inmates cowering in their cells fearful of being bullied or assaulted, an official report by HM Inspectorate of Prisons published on December 8.
HMP Wormwood Scrubs — an iconic jail suffering persistent and intractable failings. The @HMIPrisonsnews inspection report is published today — read it here —https://t.co/3OnarPpDET — and read our press notice here — https://t.co/jNdbicbSQX— HMI Prisons (@HMIPrisonsnews) December 8, 2017
Urgent measures have now been introduced including extra CCTV, body-worn cameras for staff and patrol dogs in a bid to quell the high levels of serious violence from erupting in the prison which was built in west London by inmates from Millbank Gaol in 1875.
Wormwood Scrubs is home to more than 1,200 men with over half from a black or minority ethnic background.
In an interview with Sputnik, Mark Fairhurst, acting national chairman of the Prison Officers' Association (POA) has blamed budget cuts and lack of manpower as being the prime reason behind the surge in attacks.
He warned the situation is only going to get worse as more of POA members leave the service.
"The situation at Wormwood Scrubs is dire and it has already lost 30 percent of its staff and it is becoming increasingly harder to attract recruits because of the poor pay scales that are being offered despite the cost of living in London. It simply just isn't happening and until they address this then things can only get worse. The increase in violence continues quarter after quarter. It is a terrifying situation," Fairhurst told Sputnik.
The chairman revealed officers are now using pepper sprays in a bid to protect themselves as well other prisoners from assaults. He added the POA is continually raising its fears over the situation, especially the violence but nothing has been done.
A former inmate has even posted a video on YouTube, where he talks about the conditions inside the iconic Victorian jail, claiming it is infested with rats.
Jack Hill said prisoners were afraid to leave their cells and there had been a sharp increase in the number of men staying inside rather than venture out.
"There are rats everywhere because of the poor hygiene and waste food all over the place. The jail is crawling with them."
Not good enough
In his report, Peter Clarke, the chief inspector, found "an extremely concerning picture" when his team visited in July and August 2017.
Inspectors found the prison was still not safe enough with 65 percent of prisoners admitting they did feel the security level was appropriate. Levels of violence were very high and much of it was serious. The frequency of assaults on staff had increased dramatically, and was far higher than at the time of the previous inspection.
Mr. Clarke said staffing shortages were pervasive and led to a failure to deliver even basic services with too many inmates being locked up for significant periods, often as long as 23 hours. The number of self-harm incidents remained high with three inmates taking their own lives.
Drugs were said to be "very accessible" — similar to HM Holme House, whose report published on December 5 said the reform prison was awash with drugs with more than a third of prisoners testing positive for psychoactive and others.