Holloway Prison inmates with mental health issues face ‘unacceptable’ delays – report

Holloway Prison

Holloway Prison - Credit: PA Archive/Press Association Ima

Inmates at Holloway Prison with mental health issues are facing “unacceptable” delays in being moved to secure hospital beds, a report reveals today.

Sarah Reed

Sarah Reed - Credit: Archant

Published today by Deputy Chief Inspector of Prisons Martin Lomas following an inspection last year, the report says just five of the 37 inmates at the prison in Parkhurst Road who were transferred to secure mental health units in the past year were moved within two weeks. The longest wait was 16 and a half weeks.

At the time of the unannounced inspection between October 5 and 15 last year, a further four women were in assessment or waiting for transfer.

These waiting times were deemed “not acceptable and had the potential to cause women’s mental health and well-being to deteriorate further,” the report said.

Mr Lomas recommended women with complex and risky mental health and behavioural needs be transferred to appropriate specialist locations within a maximum of two weeks of the decision being made.

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It is not the first time the prison, which is set to shut this summer, has come under scrutiny for its treatment of inmates with mental health problems.

Earlier this month, hundreds gathered outside the prison to hold a candlelit vigil for Sarah Reed, a prisoner with mental health problems who was found unresponsive in her cell on January 11. Prison staff battled to save her but she was pronounced dead a short while later.

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Ms Reed, 32, a former victim of police brutality, had been transferred from a secure mental health unit at Maudsley hospital to prison last October.

But campaigners said she should not have been moved from the mental health unit in the first place.

Meanwhile, the inspection found the prison had improved in three out of four tests: safety, respect and resettlement.

In particular, the prison was found to be generally safe and well-controlled with little “serious violence”.

And it was also praised for the other aspects of its mental health support while day care facilities were found to be excellent. Support for women who had been abused was found to be strong.

Mr Lomas said the prison had improved since the last inspection.

“At the last inspection, we highlighted progress in making the prison safer but emphasised the need to ensure the sustainability of this improvement,” he said.

“To their credit, managers had achieved this. The environment at Holloway remained a significant challenge, but this was mitigated by managers and most staff placing decency and respect for the individual at the centre of their work.”

Given its “poor design” and the fall in the number of women in jail, the prison was an “obvious candidate for closure”, he added.

The government announced plans to close the prison last November. The move would involve relocating women to a reopened Downview prison, in Surrey.

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