Social distancing at HMP Preston ‘poor’ due to overcrowding

Posted on - 16th September, 2020 - 1:53pm | Author - | Posted in - Deepdale, Health, Preston City Centre, Preston News, St Matthews
HMP Preston. Pic: Tony Worrall
HMP Preston. Pic: Tony Worrall

HMP Preston is severely overcrowded meaning social distancing is “all but impossible”, according to inspectors.


The prison was visited in August by HM Inspectorate of Prisons inspectors to investigate Covid-19 impacts on the running of the facility.

Despite housing 650 inmates, lower than a 2017 inspection, reports found that early release schemes have been ineffective, with some inmates sharing cells designed for one person.

Peter Clarke, HM Chief Inspector of Prisons, said: “The prison dates from the 18th century, and some of the accommodation was deteriorating or, as in the case of the very cramped reception area, barely fit for purpose.

“In such areas, social distancing was all but impossible, and it was difficult in much of the rest of the prison because of its cramped design and overcrowding. We saw few attempts by staff and prisoners to socially distance even where it was achievable.”

The prison was classed as a Covid-19 outbreak site until 10 July with restrictions being in place such as positive inmates only being allowed out of their cells for 15 minutes a week to shower.

However, at the time of the visit there were no positive coronavirus cases.

Read More: Preston’s community testing centres close early for a second day as essential workers struggle to access covid testing

Mr Clarke said: “While most prisoners understood the reasons for the restrictions imposed in March 2020, many told us they were confused and concerned about the possible next steps.

“Most were still locked up for 22.5 hours a day, usually in shared cells that were not designed to hold more than one prisoner.

“This was unacceptable and, given that there was only one [isolating] prisoner during our visit, wholly avoidable.”

The report shows that violence increased and that use of force increased in May and June 2020 to levels above those before the regime had been restricted.

Read more: The areas of Preston, South Ribble and Chorley to have had positive coronavirus tests in the last week

Evidence showed that some violence was a result of prisoners being frustrated at the prolonged restrictions and a lack of purposeful activity.

HMP Preston Pic: Rept0n1x
HMP Preston Pic: Rept0n1x

Mr Clarke said: “While managers tackled inappropriate use of force robustly where it was identified, we were concerned to find that staff often did not switch on body-worn cameras when they should have used them.

“This required a stronger management response.”

The report concluded that there were ‘obvious changes’ that the prison should have made to improve matters, such as ensuring inmates had more time out of cell.

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