Inside filthy London prison where inmates are locked in ‘dirty, graffiti-covered cells’ for 22 hours a day

·3-min read
The build-up of rubbish was criticised by the inspectors. (
The build-up of rubbish was criticised by the inspectors. (HM Chief Inspector of Prisons)

One of the UK's most famous prisons has been criticised after it was found inmates were living in "squalid" conditions and locked in their cells for up to 22 hours a day.

With more 1,400 inmates, HMP Wandsworth in south-west London is one of the largest and oldest in the UK, but is suffering from severe overcrowding and has regularly received poor ratings on previous inspections.

In the most recent inspections in 2018 and 2021 most scores given were two out of four and described as "not sufficiently good."

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Many cells were filfthy. (HM Chief Inspector of Prisons)
Many cells were filthy. (HM Chief Inspector of Prisons)

The 2022 report praised improvements in managerial oversight, engagement with foreign prisoners, education and mental health support.

But they found violence had increased, overcrowding was still an issue, with many living in "very poor conditions" and access to mental health services, education, fitness and even the outside were inadequate.

The report said: "Prisoners were moved into dirty, graffiti-covered cells, some of which had no windows. Cleaning cupboards continued to be in disarray and there were large amounts of rubbish in exercise yards attracting vermin."

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The shower areas in some parts of the prison were described as
The shower areas in some parts of the prison were described as "unacceptable." (HM Chief Inspector of Prisons)

It singled out the mental health inpatient unit specifically, describing it as "unacceptable."

Entire wings were criticised as being filthy and overcrowded, with many one-man cells split between two.

They said the shower areas in wings G, H and K were "squalid".

A mental health cell in the prison. (HM Chief Inspector of Prisons)
A mental health cell in the prison. (HM Chief Inspector of Prisons)

They also said there was no plan to improve the situation.

The authors said more than half of the population were unemployed or not engaging with education meaning they spent 22 hours locked in their cell.

Some inmates were denied access to open air for days.

Access to outside spaces was criticised. (HM Chief Inspector of Prisons)
Access to outside spaces was criticised. (HM Chief Inspector of Prisons)

Despite praising the recent recruitment drive to fill out the mental health support roles in the prison the authors still heavily criticised the provisions.

Just four of the 12 mental health units were usable, with half being refurbished and the other two being damaged.

This meant patients often had to be treated on the wings and had to wait weeks to be provided with a special mental health cell.

Some inmates had to spend 22 hours a day in their cell. (HM Chief Inspector of Prisons)
Some inmates had to spend 22 hours a day in their cell. (HM Chief Inspector of Prisons)

The longest a patient had to wait was 226 days.

The report also said the support for prisoners after release was "very poor" with less than half of prisoners having a place to stay on the night of their release.

It also noted there were "very high rates of non-effective staff", which had been a problem in previous inspections.

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