Exeter Prison has been revealed to be the most overcrowded jail in the country. However, a spokesman for the prison said it continues to operate well.
More than four in five prisoners (83 per cent) at HMP Exeter were forced to share cells designed to hold just one inmate. This form of overcrowding, known as ‘doubling’, is the cause of the vast majority of overcrowding in the prison system.
Exeter prison has been more than 80 per cent overcrowded for the past seven years. The average across the prison system was just 24 per cent. The Ministry of Justice gave HMP Exeter the lowest possible score in its latest ratings of prisons. It was one of 15 in England and Wales to be rated as ‘of serious concern’, dropping from ‘meeting the majority of its targets’ the year before.
However, a Prison Service spokesperson said: “HMP Exeter is operating well within its operational capacity which means it is safe for those held within it.
‘Reducing crowding is a central aim of our modernisation of the prison estate and we are committed to delivering up to 10,000 new prison places across the country.
‘The population of HMP Exeter on June 29 was 438, well within its operational capacity of 561.”
An HM Inspector of Prisons report on prison living conditions, published last October, said: “During our inspections we often find conditions in 19th-century local prisons to be worse than other, newer establishments.
‘They often have sanitary facilities which are not fit for purpose and inadequate fixtures and fittings. For example, at HMP Exeter (2017), a wing provided some very poor-quality accommodation. Far too many cells across the prison had poor or missing furniture ….
‘The quality of window fittings was of particular concern, often consisting of a piece of Perspex propped up against the window frame. Showers
on some of the wings were dirty, damp and strewn with litter and discarded prison clothing,” the inspectors said.
By contrast, the inspectors said that at HMP Channings Wood in Newton Abbot “We found that most cells were clean and well equipped, with sufficient furniture, toilet screens, curtains and lockable cabinets, and that there was little graffiti in most of the living blocks.”
This year Channings Wood at Newton Abbot had 677 inmates at the end of June, the lowest number in the past ten years. Dartmoor, with 638 inmates this June, has seen numbers remain broadly static.