The outgoing Chief Inspector of Prisons, Nick Hardwick, has told The Guardian that former Justice Secretary, Chris Grayling, tried to prevent him from publishing criticisms of government policies. The Chief Inspector of Prisons' Annual Report 2013-14 blamed a surge in self-inflicted deaths, suicides and assaults in prisons on policies and decisions made by the Ministry of Justice.
Hardwick recently informed the House of Commons Justice Select Committee that the Ministry of Justice tried to make him sign off all specialist personnel hired to take part in prison inspections. Hardwick retaliated by writing to senior civil servants warning he would suspend all inspections if these restrictions were not lifted.
Hardwick also reflected on how much he disliked going into prisons:
'I'm surprised by how much I don't like being in prison....it's the noise, the echo, the clanging, the claustrophobia, the sense that even if you've got keys you're shut in, and the unhappiness.'
'It's as bad as you could possibly imagine, and possibly more so. And don't think a little flat screen telly in the corner is going to alleviate it, because it doesn't.'
In an interview with Alex Cavendish of the Prison UK website, Hardwick offers advice to his successor, Peter Clarke;
'My advice would be spend as much time in prison, talking to prisoners, as you possibly can to start with. If you want to know what is going on in prisons, ask prisoners. If you ask enough of them you will get a pretty accurate picture of what is happening.'
Last year our annual UK Justice Policy Review included the first ever UK-wide analysis of suicide, self-harm and assaults in prisons.