Swansea prison accused of ‘inexcusable failures’ after four inmates kill themselves within week of arrival

A Welsh jail has been accused of “inexcusable failures” after it emerged that four inmates took their own lives within a week of arriving at the prison in the past four years.

The UK prisons watchdog warned in a report published on Thursday that HMP Swansea was failing to respond effectively to high levels of suicide and self-injury, with self-harm having tripled since the last inspection.

Inspectors found the prison had not fully acted on recommendations by the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman (PPO), which investigates deaths in prisons.

Chief Inspector Peter Clarke said the PPO recommendations were “significant and highly relevant” and failure to implement them was “inexcusable”.

Despite stark warnings from the watchdog in 2014 that the prison must deliver better outcomes, the watchdog said the latest findings were “very disappointing”, adding that “the complacency [they] warned about after the last inspection had been allowed to take hold”.

A third of prisoners said they felt depressed or suicidal on arrival at Swansea, but inspectors noted that mental health provision “did not meet the high level of need”. 

Figures show HMP Swansea is the fifth-most overcrowded jail in England and Wales, holing 431 inmates despite being designed to accommodate 268.

The report notes that prisoners in the Victorian, inner-city jail “usually had to eat their meals next to their toilets, which did not always have seats or lids”.

More than half (53 per cent) of inmates said they had problems with drugs and 32 per cent has problems with alcohol on arrival – higher proportions than in comparable prisons. Yet “far fewer” prisoners than at similar jails said they had received help with drug or alcohol problems, states the report.

Inspectors said the suicide constant watch cell was “unwelcoming, dirty and unfurnished,” and that prisoners trained by the Samaritans to support vulnerable fellow prisoners – as part of a scheme started in the 1980s – felt “underused and undervalued”.

Violence had risen in Swansea since 2014 and drugs were a significant problem, while “far too little attention” was paid to ensuring that the 458 men could obtain the “very basics for everyday living”, such as socks, boxer shorts and sheets, the watchdog said.

A further area of significant concern was that “purposeful activity” had fallen to the lowest possible HMIP assessment of “poor”, with half of prisoners…

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