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A long thread about HMP Woodhill, Andrew Sperling

Andrew Sperling posted the following thread about HMP Woodhill on Twitter on 5 August 2022.


This morning's thread is about HMP Woodhill, a high security prison based near Milton Keynes. You may well find this distressing. I find it extremely distressing.

I have a client who has been at Woodhill for over three years. He is serving an IPP sentence. He expected to serve 4 years. He has served over 10 so far. He was moved to Woodhill to complete a programme which he was told he would start within a short time.

The programme which he has been told is essential for him to complete is still not running at Woodhill. He was told that initial problems were due to Covid. He has been told repeatedly that it will finally start this summer. This has proved to be untrue.

He has struggled during his sentence. His mental health is poor. Last week he found another prisoner dead in his cell. He had taken his own life. I understand that this is the third suicide in a few months at Woodhill. There are numerous incidents of serious violence at Woodhill.

He has been offered no support to cope with the trauma he has endured. His mother died suddenly a few years ago. This month is the anniversary of her death. It is a very difficult time for him. He was told that he would receive bereavement counselling. He has had none.

He has been involved in confrontations with officers during his sentence and has been convicted of assaults. During the last few months he has dug deep and managed to stay out of trouble. He knows that he needs to do that to have any chance of ever leaving prison.

He called yesterday to say that he had had enough & his head had gone. He said he had lost all hope. I asked him to think about how well he had done recently & what he had to lose. I said I would contact the prison & he should also ask for help. He said there was no one to ask.

He called again towards the end of the day. He told me that he had got into an incident with officers, that he had barricaded himself in his cell and tried to hang himself. He had been cut down and taken to segregation. He is now on an 'ACCT' (suicide watch).

I have another IPP client who has just arrived at Woodhill. I have written about him before. He is autistic. He has been in custody for over 15 years. He & his family expected him to serve 2 years. He was moved suddenly to Woodhill without warning or explanation. He is terrified.

I had a client in the close supervision centre at Woodhill a few years ago. He was so 'closely supervised' that it was possible for him to be brutally murdered in broad daylight in the prison yard. You can read about this shocking case here:

Taras Nykolyn: Ministry of Justice expresses “deep regret” as inquest finds serious issues led to brutal prison murder

7 October 2021

The Prisons Inspectorate reported on Woodhill last December. You can read the report here:

Some highlights: “Our findings at this inspection were disappointing. As in 2018, outcomes in safety and purposeful activity were poor…

“Against nearly all the main measures, the prison was not safe enough. Violence was higher than comparable prisons; use of force, though mostly legitimate, was also high; use of segregation was considerable; and there had been seven self-inflicted deaths since we last inspected”

Dominic Raab is the Secretary of State for Justice. The prison system is ultimately his responsibility. The Justice Select Committee launched an enquiry into IPP prisoners late last year. Their report was due in April. It has been delayed until September.

A couple of quotes from famous people:

Winston Churchill: ‘Show me your prisons and I shall say in which society you live’.

Nelson Mandela: "It is said that no one truly knows a nation until one has been inside its jails."

We are better than this.

Aren’t we?


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