Pentonville’s broken windows allow drugs drones in
Poor state of Caledonian Road prison slammed in latest report
04 August, 2017 — By Emily Finch
Pentonville Prison in Caledonian Road
JUST a quarter of broken windows at Pentonville Prison have been replaced, allowing drugs, mobile phones and weapons to be flown in by criminals using drones – despite authorities having been aware of the issue for years.
Dilapidated cell windows are putting the borough’s residents at risk from escaping inmates while facilitating drug use and violence inside, the Independent Monitoring Board (IMB) for the Caledonian Road jail, which is made up of members of the public, warned in their annual report.
Prison inspectors slammed conditions at the “inhumane” and overcrowded prison. Two female staff members were sexually assaulted this year, the report revealed.
It said: “181 out of the most dilapidated windows have been replaced. Approximately 520 remain. Until all the windows are replaced, drones and drops of contraband will continue to put the safety of staff and prisoners at risk.”
In October last year, 21-year-old Jamal Mahmoud was stabbed to death in the prison with a knife, while a month later two prisoners escaped.
IMB chairwoman Camilla Poultan said: “It was pretty clear windows played some part of facilitating what happened.”
She called for money from central government to fund the replacement of all windows.
IMB inspectors pay weekly visits to the prison. In a 12-month period up until March, they found blocked toilets, leaking raw sewage and prisoners without clean clothes and hot food.
They censured Carillion, the company contracted to manage the prison’s facilities for their “failure to repair the fabric of the prison in a timely fashion”.
They took over management from an in-house team two years ago, according to Ms Poulton. She added: “[Before] they could manage priorities, get jobs done right, get right people in the jobs.”
The Caledonian Road prison housed 1,290 prisoners at the beginning of last year, while the prison service deems 909 inmates a suitable figure for the 19th-century prison.
Most prisoners share a 12ft by 8ft cell with another inmate, which the board described as “not humane”.
The prison has the highest number of inmates waiting to be transferred to a mental health unit in the country and there were 483 incidents of self-harm recorded last year – an increase of 131 from the previous year.
“It is wrong, both from the point of view of the patient and staff, that the seriously mentally ill should be held in prison rather than hospital conditions,” the report said.
“Amongst other considerations, there is no power to medicate compulsorily under the Mental Health Act within the prison.”
The inspectors warned that young adults, of which there were 86 in October last year, were “adrift in an adult prison which has made no specific provision for them” with no specialist staff to engage with them.
There were 19 recorded assaults on staff in December last year with an average of 10 a month. Two female officers were sexually assaulted in two separate incidents in February this year.
The prison governors’ chief warned of a “crisis” and a “complete decline” in prisons on Wednesday and called for reform as “the answer to all our woes”.
An open letter penned by Andrea Albutt, the president of the Prison Governors Association, warned of chronic understaffing with a net gain of just 75 prison officers throughout the country last year. She said the Conservative Party’s decision earlier this year to allow civil servants who have never worked in prisons to set out prison policy was “perverse” and “madness”.
A spokesman for the Ministry of Justice said they were recruiting more staff across all prisons.
The spokesman added: “While the board notes progress has been made in improving staff safety with body-worn cameras for all uniformed staff, and new CCTV to tackle the flow of contraband into prisons, it is also clear there remains much more to be done.”