'Remarkable' improvement at Brixton jail: Inspector applauds transformation at once-squalid remand prison

ONCE notorious for its record of suicides, its squalid, inhumane conditions and the embarrassing escape of two IRA suspects, Brixton prison in south London has been rehabilitated.

Judge Stephen Tumim, the chief inspector of prisons who two and a half years ago condemned the jail as 'corrupting and depressing', yesterday reported on its 'remarkable transformation'.

His recognition of the changes the new governor, Dr Andrew Coyle, had managed to achieve in the country's oldest Victorian jail were echoed by the prisoners. One said: 'The difference in this nick from two years ago is that staff now show us some respect.'

The prison service acknowledged that for 100 years prisoners 'paid a terrible price' as Brixton jail concentrated on fulfilling its role as the London remand prison - ensuring that prisoners were at court on time.

At its worst, 1,150 prisoners were crammed into accommodation that should have held 730 - sometimes three were confined in one cell for up to 23 hours a day.

Perhaps its biggest shame was F wing - labelled by professionals a latter-day Bedlam, and by prisoners as Fraggle Rock after a children's television puppet programme. In an atmosphere of urine, faeces and stale food, up to 300 psychiatric cases were held, from the psychotic, the mentally ill and the suicidal, to those withdrawing from drugs and the depressed.

Now F wing is closed, and 100 mentally ill and disordered prisoners are housed in a better-staffed 'healthcare centre'. Violent outbursts, once an everyday occurrence, now happen less than once a week. There has been no suicide since May 1991 - there were 14 in the previous two years - largely due, the report said, to 'very active' suicide prevention measures and the immediate transfer of those considered at risk into the hospital rather than isolation cells.

'The transformation in the last 18 months has already been remarkable. For example, the contrast between the squalid, overcrowded and desperate conditions in F wing in 1990 and the warm, light, open and positive atmosphere which now prevails is a credit to all concerned,' the report said.

Although the report attributed some improvements - prisoners are out of their cells for six hours a day - to the drop in population to 680, much was due to the quality of staff. 'We found a very positive optimistic and professional attitude amongst staff which translated into a very good rapport with inmates,' it said.

Judge Tumim's Brixton report was one of 11 on prisons and young offender institutions around the country published this week. Not all were as favourable. Lack of coherent planning is blamed for Whitemoor prison, a new jail in Cambridgeshire, holding a large population of vulnerable prisoners alongside high-risk, long-term inmates, with one shared set of facilities.

Management of life-sentence inmates at Albany prison on the Isle of Wight was among the poorest in the jail system, Judge Tumim concluded.

At Highpoint prison, Newmarket, where drugs and violence have already been identified as a problem, Judge Tumim recorded 24 assaults on inmates, eight on staff, and 46 drug finds; 18 prisoners had escaped and one in nine of those allowed temporary release had failed to return.

Suggested Topics
News
people Biographer says cinema’s enduring sex symbol led a secret troubled life
News
newsGlobal index has ranked the quality of life for OAPs - but the UK didn't even make it into the top 10
News
people

Kirstie Allsopp has waded into the female fertility debate again

News
In 2006, Pluto was reclassified as a 'dwarf planet'
scienceBut will it be reinstated?
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
people
News
Researchers say a diet of fatty foods could impede smell abilities
scienceMeasuring the sense may predict a person's lifespan
Sport
footballArsenal 4 Galatasaray 1: Wenger celebrates 18th anniversary in style
News
peopleStella McCartney apologises over controversial Instagram picture
News
Gillian Anderson was paid less than her male co-star David Duchovny for three years while she was in the The X-Files until she protested and was given the same salary
people

Gillian Anderson lays into gender disparity in Hollywood

Life and Style
Laid bare: the Good2Go app ensures people have a chance to make their intentions clear about having sex
techCould Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Burr remains the baker to beat on the Great British Bake Off
tvRichard remains the baker to beat as Chetna begins to flake
Life and Style
fashionThe Secret Angels all take home huge sums - but who earns the most?
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Amazon has added a cautionary warning to Tom and Jerry cartoons on its streaming service
tv
News
The village was originally named Llansanffraid-ym-Mechain after the Celtic female Saint Brigit, but the name was changed 150 years ago to Llansantffraid – a decision which suggests the incorrect gender of the saint
newsA Welsh town has changed its name - and a prize if you can notice how
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

DT Teacher - Resistant Materials

£33000 - £34000 per annum: Randstad Education Group: Technology Teacher (Resis...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + Uncapped Commission, 1st yr OTE £30-£40k : SThree:...

Middleware Support Analyst

£45000 - £50000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is curr...

Senior Java Developer/Designer

£400 - £450 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: My client are looking fo...

Day In a Page

Italian couples fake UK divorce scam on an ‘industrial scale’

Welcome to Maidenhead, the divorce capital of... Italy

A look at the the legal tourists who exploited our liberal dissolution rules
Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

The vintage series has often been criticised for racial stereotyping
An app for the amorous: Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?

An app for the amorous

Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?
Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid. Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?

Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid

Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?
Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

After a few early missteps with Chekhov, her acting career has taken her to Hollywood. Next up is a role in the BBC’s gangster drama ‘Peaky Blinders’
She's having a laugh: Britain's female comedians have never had it so good

She's having a laugh

Britain's female comedians have never had it so good, says stand-up Natalie Haynes
Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LED lights designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows

Let there be light

Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LEDs designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows
Great British Bake Off, semi-final, review: Richard remains the baker to beat

Tensions rise in Bake Off's pastry week

Richard remains the baker to beat as Chetna begins to flake
Paris Fashion Week, spring/summer 2015: Time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris

A look to the future

It's time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris
The 10 best bedspreads

The 10 best bedspreads

Before you up the tog count on your duvet, add an extra layer and a room-changing piece to your bed this autumn
Arsenal vs Galatasaray: Five things we learnt from the Emirates

Arsenal vs Galatasaray

Five things we learnt from the Gunners' Champions League victory at the Emirates
Stuart Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

This deal gives England a head-start to prepare for 2019 World Cup, says Chris Hewett
Ebola outbreak: The children orphaned by the virus – then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection

The children orphaned by Ebola...

... then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection
Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

Are censors pandering to homophobia?

US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence
The magic of roundabouts

Lords of the rings

Just who are the Roundabout Appreciation Society?