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Legal highs, suicide watch and violence: Report paints damning picture of Holloway Prison’s final months

PUBLISHED: 10:57 24 August 2016 | UPDATED: 10:58 24 August 2016

The former Holloway Prison, in Parkhurst Road. Picture: Jonathan Brady/PA Wire

The former Holloway Prison, in Parkhurst Road. Picture: Jonathan Brady/PA Wire

PA/Press Association Images

Holloway Prison was blighted by the same “legal high” drug abuse as nearby Pentonville Prison, a report said today.

Holloway Prison inmate Sarah Reed died in her cell in January. Picture: Lee JasperHolloway Prison inmate Sarah Reed died in her cell in January. Picture: Lee Jasper

The Independent Monitoring Board (IMB) report painted a damning picture of the final six months in the Parkhurst Road jail.

Its closure was announced in November last year. This was despite huge improvement in recent reports, which saw it labelled a “safe and decent prison”. The final inmates left on June 17.

The report broke down issues in the prison in the aftermath of the closure announcement:

•Increased suicide risk requiring women to be on constant or intermittent watches;

•Increased use of “spice” or legal highs, often with dangerous medical and psychiatric consequences. The issue has regularly been flagged in men’s jail Pentonville, half a mile away in Caledonian Road;

•“Challenging behaviour”, including an increased number of assaults on fellow prisoners and staff;

•Increased numbers of prisoners taken to outside hospitals, requiring officers to accompany them, sometimes for several days.

On January 11, inmate Sarah Reed – a victim of police brutality in November 2012 when she was beaten up by an officer – was found dead in her cell.

The report said: “There is no suggestion that this was in any way linked to the closure process and the inquest has not yet taken place.”

It also claimed staff became demotivated in the prison’s final months – and that this could have been fed by a prison governor.

“IMB members were told repeatedly that a senior governor said: ‘It doesn’t matter, Holloway is closing.’”

“Whether or not this was said by that person, we felt the widespread rumour indicated a level of disenchantment and difficulty remaining motivated.”

However, it added “most officers continued to perform well”.

The prison site is likely to become housing when it is demolished. Jeremy Corbyn has been among those calling for this to be affordable.

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