Truth about prison's condemned wing

A former worker at Norwich Prison lifted the lid on the “disgusting” A-wing last night and said inmates in the dilapidated cells were totally denied their basic human rights.

A former worker at Norwich Prison lifted the lid on the “disgusting” A-wing last night and said inmates in the dilapidated cells were totally denied their basic human rights.

As it emerged that up to 30 prisoners have already returned to the condemned Victorian block to ease over-crowding in jails, the worker said his complaints about prison conditions fell on deaf ears.

The man, who cannot be named, worked with A-wing prisoners as a civilian for 9 months but left at the beginning of last year because he was “disgusted and frustrated” that his concern for prisoners were dismissed.

He claims prisoners were denied showers after working with refuse and ate food in the disgraceful shared cells with a toilet in the same room.

Inmates had left the block deemed unfit for human habitation last week, but 100 remand and category-C prisoners are set to return after home secretary John Reid ordered it to be re-opened to help alleviate the prisons crisis.

“It was basic human rights,” said the man, who ran a recycling course with prisoners in A-wing.

Most Read

“When I went to see prisoners in their cells I was very upset about the state of their accommodation.

“The cells were disgraceful, paint was peeling off, it was very, very dismal.

“When they went and got their food they would go back up to their cells and had to eat their food in the cells, it was absolutely disgusting, and if anybody in the cell needed to go to the toilet, they could see them doing it.”

The worker said he cared for prisoners and expressed concern to his manager but he claims he was asked “what do you think these people are here for?” and was told to “shut up”.

“I asked how can we expect to have these people go through some form of system where we can enable them to go back in to the community, and I was told “they won't”.

“That was the attitude when I started - shut up and say nothing.”

During his time at the prison, A-wing was full, with some prisoners coming to the end of a 15-year stretch in the two-man and three-man cells.

As reported earlier this week, the Victorian wing had leaking sewage pipes, broken windows, smashed washbasins and peeling paint and was described in a report as the “worst accommo-dation ever seen” by inspectors.

The former teacher said he agreed with the description and found attitude of some members of staff “degrading and depressing”.

“I just couldn't cope and that's why I left,” he said.

“I think their human rights were totally denied to them, and that was down to the prison service itself and the prison officers.

“Whatever I tried to do to give them some dignity I was told to shut up and not to trust the prisoners, but I could see with my own eyes how they were living.

“The cells smelled. If I had to live in one of those cells… I can see why people talk about having considered suicide in those cells.

“I feel very strongly about it.

“They had made a mistake and that is what they are there for, but they were never given any encouragement to actually go back out in to the world and give their life another crack.

“We cannot expect people to come out with any self respect and dignity when those are the conditions they have been living in.

“If you do not show respect for somebody they will not have respect for themselves to get back into society and live a positive and purposeful life, and I think it is awful that the prisoners are now going back in those cells.”

Prisoners began returning to A-wing yesterday, with up to 30 expected to be in previously condemned cells by last night.

Norwich Prison has not refurbished any of the cells as officials were ready to knock down and rebuild the wing, which is still expected to be done later this year.

The use of A-wing is seen as a temporary arrangement.

“We have chosen 83 cells to use to bring back on line and these are the better cells on the whole of the wing,” said prison governor James Shanley.