Hunts Prison Was Failing Says Report
23 July 2018, 19:03 | Updated: 23 July 2018, 19:08
A sex offenders' prison where disgraced publicist Max Clifford collapsed after complaining of poor conditions operated "below standards of decency at times", a report has found.
HMP Littlehey near Huntingdon suffered from a "lack of long-term investment" and has been blighted by maintenance issues, the Independent Monitoring Board (IMB) said.
Its annual report into the category C prison, covering February 2017 to January 2018, said a cash injection from the Prison Service was "urgently required".
Penal reform charity the Howard League described the findings as "lamentable".
Among the shortcomings highlighted by the report were "issues with hot water, heating, and washing and drying facilities", with "disproportionate" staff time swallowed by maintenance issues.
Former PR guru Clifford died in hospital, aged 74, on December 10 after collapsing at the jail, where he was serving an 8 year sentence for historical sex offences.
His daughter Louise Clifford told a pre-inquest review last month that while she accepted her father died of natural causes, problems at the prison "exacerbated his condition".
She said: "Being cold, lack of heating, the shock of the shower - he complained for weeks and weeks to me that it was becoming impossible to shower adequately."
Some showers were "out of action for over two years", while boiler heating in particular cells were not working for "over eight months", the IMB said.
According to the report, a "lack of investment in the fabric of the buildings and accommodation" heralded the spate of issues.
The IMB wrote to the Prisons Minister to highlight problems including "cell heating and availability of hot water for showers; issues arising from the facilities management contract; the plight of prisoners because of the contract in respect of decency, hygiene and security; the disproportionate staff time given over to resolving maintenance issues; and the breakdown of trust due to an inability to meet prisoners' basic needs."
Addressing the Prison Service, it said:
"Investment is urgently required at HMP Littlehey to allow prisoners to live in decent conditions. The lack of long term investment and the facilities management contract has caused the prison to operate below acceptable standards of decency at times throughout the year."
The report continued:
"The prison accommodation remains of serious concern to the Board.
The lack of central investment, together with a maintenance programme (and contract) limited by time and financial resource, has led to the reporting year being dominated by Board concerns regarding the fabric of the buildings at Littlehey."
At the start of the year, there were 1,303 outstanding planned maintenance jobs and 1,385 outstanding reactive maintenance jobs, the report said.
This was exacerbated by the collapse of Carillion in January - the primary provider of maintenance services - which caused "extra work" for the governor.
Around 98% of the prison population at HMP Littlehey have been convicted of a sexual offence.
Andrew Neilson, director of campaigns at the Howard League for Penal Reform, said: "The lamentable conditions in Littlehey are indicative of the pressures that exist in our overburdened and under-resourced prison system.
"No prison should be allowed to deteriorate in this way, but it is particularly shocking in a jail where around half of the prisoners are over 50 and a significant number are elderly and disabled."
PRISON SERVICE REACTION
A Prison Service spokesperson said:
"We are committed to providing safe and decent conditions for prisoners and recently announced an additional £16m investment to improve standards across the estate.
Earlier this year, engineers resolved an issue with the hot water system at HMP Littlehey.
We put in place alternative measures for the small number of affected prisoners to ensure they continued to have access to hot water."