Official claims that prisoners spend 10 hours a day out of their cells on weekdays are inflated, according to research by the chief inspector of prisons.
Anne Owers says that the figures are a “significant overestimate” of what overcrowded prisons can achieve. A survey of 6,500 prisoners had shown 50% spend less than six hours a day out of their cell and for 20% it is less than two hours.
The Prison Service has a performance target of 10 hours a day during weekdays for time spent out of cell. Public and private sector prisons report that they “comfortably” meet this target, with the public sector averaging 10 hours and private prisons, which face financial penalties for missing targets, reporting an average of 11.5 hours.
But Owers says these figures overestimate the situation: “In surveys of 6,500 prisoners in public sector prisons, only around 12% said that they were able to be out of their cells for 10 or more hours a day. Twice as many – but still only a quarter of prisoners – said they were able to do so in contracted-out prisons.”
In the face of these findings, the prison inspectorate carried out checks in 17 prisons and found that only three met the target, and that was only for the “best possible scenario” inmates employed in prison. For unemployed inmates, none of the jails came close to providing a 10-hour day out of cell. In nine, unemployed prisoners were locked up for more than 20 hours