A “crumbling and decrepit” prison is an unfit place for prisoners to live, according to inspectors.

The Independent Monitoring Board (IMB) for Pentonville Prison in Islington released a scathing report about the prison’s problems yesterday (September 26).

The prison, located in Holloway Road, was said to suffer from population pressures that impact “all aspects of prison life”.

The watchdog said that men were crammed, usually in pairs, into cells measuring 12 by 8 feet, often with an unscreened toilet where they ate and slept.

There are roughly 1,140 prisoners at the Victorian prison, described in the report as “crumbling” and “decrepit”.

This was well above what the prison service notes as its “normal capacity” of 909 prisoners, but below the safe maximum of prisoners it can hold (1,205).

The report by independent monitoring inspectors found that the prison had “normalised” prisoners only having an hour out of their cell a day, and even less time at weekends.

It added that an “unprecedented” 75% of prisoners were held on remand and that the majority were released straight from court without any release plan.

A total of 40% of prisoners released between April 2022 and March 2023 were released with no accommodation to go to.

But IMB Pentonville members praised the new neurodiversity unit at the prison for reducing violence and self-harm among men it supported.

They added that there had been success in disrupting contraband entering the prison by thoroughly searching staff, prisoners and visitors.

IMB Pentonville Chair Alice Gotto said: “Pentonville’s population has continued to increase over this reporting year.

“It is disappointing that this has happened despite detailed evidence from this Board and His Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons of the detrimental effect this would have on prisoners.

“For the second year running we received more calls from prisoners to the IMB helpline than any other prison in England and Wales.

“Despite the hard work of staff and management, Pentonville remains an unfit place for prisoners to live or to be rehabilitated.”

A Prisons Service spokesperson said: “HMP Pentonville has taken urgent action to address some of the issues raised in the report.

“This includes major refurbishments to boost capacity and launching new training and education programmes so prisoners can turn away from crime for good.

“The Government is also pressing ahead with the biggest expansion of prison places in over a century – delivering 20,000 additional spaces including six new, modern jails.”