The National Council for Independent Monitoring Boards has published a report detailing the experiences of prisoners required to slop out and providing a number of recommendations which would also reward examination here. The Executive Summary gives a sense of the nature of the report:
- In-cell Sanitation does not exist in some 2000 prison cells across 10 prisons.
- An electronic unlocking system exists in these prisons but excessive queuing and limited access time cause further unplanned problems.
- The use of buckets continues at night-time causing the practice of slopping out to continue despite the formal termination of this system some 14 years ago.
- There are particularly serious concerns where elderly and disabled prisoners are placed in these cells.
- There is evidence that some prisons cope with the management of this issue better than others.In many instances, the night sanitation system is unreliable and frequent breakdowns are reported.
It is also interesing to reflect on the source of the report. Independent Monitoring Boards were formerly known as ‘Boards of Visitors’ which were themselves the broad equivalent of our Visiting Committees. However, while our Committees continue to act under legislation dating from 1925, in England the system by which members of the public have the power to visit and inspect prisons has undergone comparatively substantial reform. To become member of an Independent Monitoring Boards, a person will be interviewed by members of the Board and training is provided. In addition, the umbrella organisation for all Boards acts to highlight areas of common concern, such as slopping out. This is a far cry from our own system, where Visiting Committees operate under outdated legislation and with little public understanding of their role.
Frances Crook, Director of the Howard League for Penal Reform has blogged about slopping out here.