Wandsworth prison needs 'urgent improvement' eight months on from alleged Daniel Khalife escape, watchdog says

Wandsworth prison should be put into emergency measures, a watchdog has said, after an inspection raised concerns over ongoing failings in security - eight months after the alleged escape of Daniel Khalife.

The "deeply concerning inspection" also found severe overcrowding, vermin, drugs, violence and rising self-harm at the category B jail in southwest London, where seven prisoners have taken their own lives in the past year.

Charlie Taylor, the chief inspector of prisons, has written to Justice Secretary Alex Chalk to issue an urgent notification for improvement.

The watchdog found that despite the "high-profile" alleged escape of Daniel Khalife, 22, in September, security remained a "serious concern", noting wings were "chaotic" and "staff across most units could not accurately account for their prisoners during the working day".

Mr Taylor said that given the alleged escape, "it was unfathomable that leaders had not focused their attention on this area".

The inspection found 80% of prisoners shared cells designed for one person, where most men spent more than 22 hours a day, while in one wing they had been unable to shower for five days.

Mr Taylor said the conditions were creating an environment characterised by "a degree of despondency that I have not come across in my time as chief inspector".

He said most employees were very inexperienced, with more than a third of operational staff not available for work each day.

"The poor outcomes we found at Wandsworth are systemic and cultural failures stemmed from poor leadership at every level of the prison, from HM Prison and Probation Service (HMPPS) and the Ministry of Justice," he said.

"Many well-meaning and hard-working leaders and staff persevered at Wandsworth, and their resilience was impressive, but they were often fighting against a tide of cross-cutting, intractable problems that require comprehensive, long-term solutions.

"For this troubled prison to begin to recover, Wandsworth needs permanent experienced leaders at all levels who are invested in its long-term future to improve security, safety and guide their less experienced colleagues.

"Until this happens, the risk of a further catastrophe, a self-inflicted death or escape from lawful custody, is ever present."

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In response to the findings, prisons minister Edward Argar said: "This is a deeply concerning report which shows HMP Wandsworth continues to face significant challenges and it is clear that on top of the additional support we've already provided since September to improve safety and security, including nearly £1m of upgrades, we need to go further still.

"In the coming weeks, we will be strengthening the management team with extra, experienced staff to provide the leadership, culture change and training needed to turn Wandsworth around.

"In the interim, we are deploying more staff, including prison officers, to the prison and will set out further action shortly."

Khalife, 22, is due to go on trial at the Old Bailey in October. He has pleaded not guilty to the charges against him.