HMP/YOI Eastwood Park – women in crisis held in appalling conditions

Read the report: HMP/YOI Eastwood Park

Acutely mentally unwell women were being held in cells with scratches and bloodstains on the wall, evidence of previous occupants’ distress, an inspection report into HMP/YOI Eastwood Park has found. The treatment and conditions in houseblock 4, which held those under supervision, in segregation, or awaiting transfer to a secure mental health facility, were described by one experienced inspector as the worst he had ever seen.

Charlie Taylor, Chief Inspector of Prisons, said:

“Some of the most vulnerable women across the prison estate were held in an environment wholly unsuitable for their therapeutic needs. The levels of distress we observed were appalling. No prisoner should be held in such terrible conditions.”

Eastwood Park held 348 women at the time of the inspection, 83% of whom reported having mental health problems. Self-harm was very high, but case management documents to support those at risk of self-harm and suicide were poor. Use of force had increased by around 75% since the last inspection and was often used to stop women hurting themselves. The prison received the lowest grade for safety, which is unusual in the women’s estate.

The prison was fundamentally unequipped to support the women in its care, and leaders did not seem fully aware of the severity of the situation.

Mr Taylor said:

“I was deeply concerned about the welfare of the staff who worked on unit 4; they were dedicated and courageous but were not adequately trained or qualified to support the women on the unit. They received no clinical supervision, despite being exposed to prisoners in great distress, some of whose levels of self-harm were extreme. Specialist input from others had dropped off over time and the therapeutic ethos had simply disappeared.”

Staff shortages were severely impacting the delivery of the day-to-day regime, and women were often unable to attend education, skills and work activities because of the lack of staff to get them there. Inspectors were concerned that women were not reliably being provided with positive social and recreational time to support their mental well-being.

There were some pockets of excellent work at Eastwood Park, such as the Nexus unit, which offered specialist support for women with personality disorders. But the jail was failing in its most basic duty – to keep the women safe – and immediate and meaningful change is required to ensure that these very vulnerable individuals are suitably cared for.


Notes to editors

  1. Read the HMP/YOI Eastwood Park report, published on 3 February 2023.
  2. HM Inspectorate of Prisons is an independent inspectorate, inspecting places of detention to report on conditions and treatment and promote positive outcomes for those detained and the public.
  3. HMP/YOI Eastwood Park, in Wotton-under-Edge, Gloucestershire, opened as a women’s prison in March 1996. The prison opened a mother and baby unit in 2004 and the Mary Carpenter Unit for 17-year-old girls in 2005. The Mary Carpenter Unit closed in 2013 and reopened as the Nexus Unit in 2015. The Kinnon Unit, a substance misuse unit, was established in 2009.
  4. Eastwood Park is now a women’s prison for those aged 18 and over, covering the south west of England and South Wales.
  5. At the time of this inspection, the prison held 348 women.
  6. Inspectors identified five examples of notable positive practice during this inspection.
  7. This inspection took place between 17 and 28 October 2022.
  8. Please email if you would like more information.