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'Serious concern' for inmate safety

The safety of inmates at Britain's largest prison is "of serious concern" and managers appear unwilling to take responsibility for the problems, inspectors have said.

Nick Hardwick, the Chief Inspector of Prisons, said the treatment of too many inmates at Wandsworth jail in south-west London was "demeaning, unsafe and fell below what could be classed as decent".

Managers appeared unwilling to acknowledge or address concerns, staff interactions with prisoners were "frequently indifferent and sometimes abusive", and victims of bullies were not adequately protected.

"I did not detect sufficient willingness in the prison to acknowledge and address these concerns," Mr Hardwick said.

"I hope the prison service management will now act decisively to reverse the prison's decline."

The highly critical report comes after the last inspection in June 2009 was marred when "difficult" prisoners were moved between Wandsworth and Pentonville prisons so they were not present in either jail during the inspections.

The category B Victorian prison in Wandsworth holds "a challenging population with multiple problems" and progress there has stalled, the inspectors said.

"The safety of prisoners held in Wandsworth is now a matter of serious concern," the report said.

"Wandsworth compared badly with similar prisons facing similar challenges and we were concerned by what appeared to be unwillingness among some prison managers and staff to acknowledge and take responsibility for the problems the prison faced.

"We were also concerned that poor staff-prisoner relationships, the lack of a predictable regime, deficiency of association, and insufficient activity contributed to feelings of isolation and alienation that might have led to self-harming behaviour."

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