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Prisons

Volume 393: debated on Thursday 4 November 1943

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Holloway (Complaints, Investigation)

35.

asked the Home Secretary whether he has considered the report made by five women recently imprisoned at Holloway for non-criminal offences alleging defects in hygienic provision, such as insufficiency of soap, articles of clothing nominally supplied unavailable or supplied dirty, new prisoners put into dirty cells, prisoners with minor complaints unable to see the medical officer except by sacrificing a day's work and exercise; and whether he is taking steps to remedy such defects where they exist whether in Holloway or in any other prisons?

Yes, Sir. As a result of this report the Chairman of the Prison Commissioners and the Women and Medical Commissioners have conducted a special investigation into the complaints of conditions at Holloway Prison. While the report does not give a balanced picture of these conditions, it is true that in prison establishments—as elsewhere—war conditions have affected the standards of efficiency. Certain of the complaints have already been remedied, but our difficulties are due, in the main, to the shortage of staff, the rationing of commodities and the nature of the prison buildings. As I told the House last week, steps are being taken with the assistance of my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour and National Service to find women who will be suitable recruits for the staff. I think it only fair to say that, considering the difficulties with which they have had to contend, there are no grounds for criticising the work of the prison officers. If my hon. Friend would care to see the conditions at Holloway, I shall be pleased to arrange for a visit at any time.

Unofficial Visitors

38.

asked the Home Secretary the daily average population of the prisons of England and Wales at the present time and the number of unofficial visitors actively and regularly engaged in visiting; and whether he can state, approximately, the proportion of prisoners visited by unofficial visitors?

The daily average population for the year ending 31st March, 1943, was 12,640. Though precise figures are not yet available, the daily average population for this year is probably about 12,800. The number of unofficial prison visitors who are actively engaged in visiting prisoners is 484, but it is not possible to say how regularly they are able to visit or what proportion of prisoners receive visits.

In view of the small number of visitors and of the increased number of prisoners and the fact that they are now left alone in the cells for long hours in view of the cessation of educational work, could the Minister arrange for the number of visitors to be increased?

On the face of it, I do not see why there should not be more visitors, if we could get them, but it will be a problem to find them, I am afraid.

Injured Officer, Dartmoor (Allowance)

43.

asked the Home Secretary whether he is aware that Prison Officer N. R. Gurton, who has been compelled to take 365 days sick leave in the last four years, most of which is agreed to be the consequence of an assault made upon him by three prisoners at Dartmoor who kicked him into unconsciousness, has been informed that his wages will no longed be paid and that he will receive an allowance amounting with deductions to 19s. 4d. per week on which to maintain his wife and two children; and whether he will take action to ensure that Officer Gurton does not suffer this financial loss in addition to the suffering he has sustained by the assault?

I am looking into this case and will communicate with the hon. Member.