Lags at one Victorian jail say they are being treated worse than dogs during the cold spell. Inmates of HM Prison Preston claim some prisoners with circulation problems could lose "limbs or even lives" through cold.
They have written to their local paper, saying the temperature in their cells has plummeted to 5C at night, half that allowed in dog-breeding premises, and they are suffering "inhumane treatment". But prison authorities said they were not allowed thermometers in their cells so they would not be able to tell.
In a letter to the Lancashire Evening Post, an unnamed prisoner says: "The temperature in these residential sections is utterly unbearable and totally inhumane. In a culture where we show concern for inhumane treatment of prisoners at establishments like Guantanamo Bay, let us remember that while these men are criminals, many are there on remand and all are still human beings, supposedly living in a Westernised society. For older prisoners or those with circulation problems, diabetes or other problems with their extremities this is potentially dangerous and could cost limbs or even lives."
A prison spokesman, Gareth Cheetham, insisted the central heating in the cells was fully functional. Temperatures might be slightly lower at night, he said, but the thermostat kicked in if they fell below a specific level. "We respond to prisoners' complaints," he added. "In fact, last week we actually turned the heating down on B Wing."
Kath Thomas, chief executive of Lancashire Victim Support, said: "There are elderly people out there who are worried about whether they can feed themselves and put their heating on. And victims of crime aren't going to be having a very good Christmas, either. The inmates could wear an extra layer." A spokesman for the Prisons Reform Trust said a recent Chief Inspector's report had raised concerns over the antiquated conditions. These problems were made worse by overcrowding. He said: "Preston is a really old, Victorian prison and it has lots of problems."
In September 2007, the number of Preston inmates harming themselves had soared by 90 per cent in a year; a total of 239 incidents of self-harm were recorded in 2006 compared with 126 in 2005. The jail houses 850 Category B prisoners. One in six inmates failed drug tests in the year 2006-07, Home Office figures show.
Inside stories: Prisoners' complaints
*Inmates at Whitemoor said their in-house curries were inedible. At Eid, officers made a 40-mile round trip and spent £3,500 on takeaway beef madras and lamb rogan josh.
*Lags in HMP Wymott, Lancashire, complained of too much sex and violence on their film channel, saying films such as Rambo and Basic Instinct only fuelled desire to commit crime.
*Female prisoners at HMP Peterborough said their meals were too fattening and they were struggling to fit into the issue clothing.
*Gay prisoners at HMP Wakefield recently won the right to hire porn films from a DVD rental firm after they said they were not getting the same human rights as the straight inmates.