Covid outbreak at Leeds jail HMP Wealstun means prisoners kept in 'ridiculous' conditions

Prisoners at a Leeds jail are being kept in their cells for almost 24 hours a day without daily showers or exercise, the partner of one inmate claimed as she described current conditions as "ridiculous".

By Georgina Morris
Friday, 26th February 2021, 5:21 pm

The woman, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said her partner was among dozens of prisoners at HMP Wealstun to have contracted Covid-19 in recent weeks.

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Public Health England has confirmed a Covid-19 outbreak at HMP Wealstun in Thorp Arch, near Wetherby. Picture: Tony Johnson

The woman said that throughout her partner's time at Wealstun, the pandemic has meant prisoners are only able to leave their cells for an hour each day for a shower and a short walk.

But this was reduced further still when the outbreak began earlier this month, she said, meaning they only get showers every three or four days and a few minutes outside for fresh air.

She said cells were not being cleaned as thoroughly or regularly due to the outbreak, with bins only emptied every few days. One prisoner spent two days stuck in a cell with a blocked toilet which was overflowing, she claimed.

"It's like they've living in squalor," she said. "They've got no fresh air, no exercise, it's ridiculous."

She said prisoners had been given cleaning spray and a cloth for their cell, but staff were not routinely wearing masks or gloves until the outbreak began and people who had tested positive for Covid were being sent to the shower block at the same time as those who had not.

A Prison Service spokesperson said: "Our priority is to limit the spread of the virus and protect the lives of those who live and work in our prisons. We have taken precautionary measures at Wealstun, in line with public health guidance, and will continue to closely monitor the situation."

The measures include everyone showering individually and cubicles being used on a rotational process so no prisoner goes into a cubicle after another prisoner has left. All cubicles are then cleaned after every use to ensure there is no cross contamination.

The service said it was working with Public Health England and both staff and prisoners have access to appropriate personal protective equipment.

HM Prison and Probation Service data shows there were 837 confirmed Covid cases across the entire prison and youth custody service in England and Wales in the week to Monday February 22, with eight Covid-related deaths recorded.

No data is available for individual prisons but the woman said she had been told there were as many as 80 prisoners and staff at Wealstun who had tested positive since the outbreak began around two weeks ago. The Category C prison houses around 800 men.

She said her partner had tested positive around a fortnight ago and experienced symptoms for between five and 10 days.

"He was really poorly with Covid," she said. "He had a really bad headache, hot and cold temperatures. He said his limbs were aching, his joints felt really sore. They brought him two paracetamol and that was it."

The Prison Service maintains that any prisoner is treated in the same way as any person in the community who contracts Covid-19, with the treatment decided by their symptoms as set out by the NHS.

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