Too full, too many deaths
SWANSEA prison remains one of the most overcrowded in Britain, the latest inspection has found.
The Victorian-built jail was designed for 219 inmates, but currently holds 435 people.
A report into the performance of the prison also labels its death in custody record as "not acceptable" following the deaths of three prisoners in three years.
However, inspectors also found much to praise about the jail, including its chaplaincy, recycling project, improvements in educational provision and its five-star kitchen hygiene rating.
The Independent Monitoring Boards report covers the year from April 2102 to April 2013.
It concludes: "The Board again raise concerns about overcrowding. Swansea is still one of the most overcrowded prisons in the country.
"The prison was designed to hold 219 prisoners and it currently holds 435. This means few single cells with prisoners doubling up in cells designed for single use.
"It is wholly unacceptable and unhygienic for prisoners to have to eat their meals in close proximity to the cell toilet."
It continues: "It is very disappointing and saddening to have to report that yet again there has been a death in custody. It is also worth noting, that again, it occurred on the Induction Wing.
"Induction procedures and wing facilities were reviewed thoroughly only last year, yet despite this, we have another tragic death.
"As the coroner has not yet reported on this incident it would be inappropriate to comment further on this matter.
"The Board accepts that if someone is absolutely determined to commit suicide it is almost impossible to stop them but feel many attempts are, in one form or another, a 'cry for help' during early days in custody."
It adds: "The death in custody record at Swansea is not acceptable."
The report also notes that the inspectors have concerns about access to optician and dental services in the jail, and that they are "disappointed" that due to budgetary constraints, not all the prisoner workshops are being used.
However, the report does praise many aspects of what goes on behind the walls of the Oystermouth jail.
In particular it says the new Drug Recovery Wing and Drug Free Wing seems to be having a positive impact on prisoners — although it is too early to fully assess the long term effect — and it singles out the prison's "excellent" recycling project which provides a group of prisoners with skills and a qualifications which they will be able to use on release.
It also notes that the education watchdog Estyn was pleased with improvements in the jail, and that it worked well with a range of agencies helping to prepare prisoners for life on the outside, and had strong links with the community chaplaincy team that was to be commended.
The report also said that the catering manager and his staff "can be justifiably proud" of their five star hygiene rating.
A spokesman for the Ministry of Justice — which is responsible for the Prison Service — said the report would be fully considered.
She added: "Prisoners are treated humanely and deaths in custody are a relatively rare occurrence
"It remains a priority to reduce the number of deaths and violence in custody and we take the responsibility of keeping prisoners, staff and visitors safe extremely seriously."