After Grenfell: Home Office FOI disclosure on prison fire safety

I was amongst other things a whistleblower about very poor care and conditions for exquisitely vulnerable mentally disordered offenders in prisons.

My thoughts turned to the prison estate after the revelations that flammable cladding had been used across our UK social housing stock despite bans in the US, especially with increasing privatisation of our prison estate.

If our prisons have also been unsafely constructed due to de-regulation, austerity and the pursuit of profit, prisoners may obviously be at grave risk in the event of fire. The security restrictions make evacuation of prisons all the more difficult in the event of fires.

I made enquiries to the relevant authorities to find out more.

An FOI to HM Inspector of Prisons led to claims that there were very few whistleblowing disclosures by prison staff to the inspectorate and that there were no recent self inflicted deaths from fire setting. However, HMIP also indicated it did not track whistleblowing disclosures properly because it did not keep a database:

HMIP FOI response Whistleblowing disclosures to HMIP_Dr Minh Alexander

An FOI enquiry to the Home Office’s Crown Premises Fire Inspection Group has revealed that eleven enforcement notices relating to fire safety have been issued to prisons:

Home Office FOI disclosure Prison Fire Safety 21 July 2017 44320 response-3

Of immense concern, the Home Office has failed to comply with its legal duties under FOIA by simply ignoring three key questions in its response:

“6) Does the Crown Premises Fire Inspection Group hold central information on the proportion of the crown prison estate (in terms of the number of establishments) that is fully fitted with sprinkler systems? If so, please advise how many prison establishments are fully fitted with sprinkler systems.

7) Does the Crown Premises Fire Inspection Group hold central information on the proportion of the crown prison estate (in terms of the number of establishments) that is fitted with flammable cladding? If so, please advise how many prison establishments are fitted with flammable cladding.

8) Does the Crown Premises Fire Inspection Group hold central information on the proportion of the crown prison estate (in terms of the number of establishments) that is fully fitted with smoke alarms? If so, please advise how many prison establishments are fully fitted with smoke alarms.”

A question arises of why the Home Office should avoid answering these questions in this manner, which does not comply with the requirements of FOIA.

I have challenged the Home Office’s FOI response.

I will also be raising a concern with the Health and Safety Executive and the Justice Committee.

CORRECTION 17.30 21.07.2017 Apologies to the Home Office which did provide an appropriate denial in its FOI response that it did not hold data for questions 6 to 8, which I missed.

RELATED ITEMS

Letter to Justice Committee re prison fire safety 22 July 2017

Further FOI disclosure by the Home Office 9 August 2017: 

Home Office Prison Fire Safety FOI 9 August 2017 44729 final response

 

 

 

 

 

3 thoughts on “After Grenfell: Home Office FOI disclosure on prison fire safety

  1. If the Home Office could answer the relevant questions satisfactorily, I think it safe to assume that, you would have had multiple copies of said answers couriered to you instantly.

    I do hope the H.O. does not continue with its policy of non-answers as if by so doing it imagines it is avoiding evidence of guilt.

    No, you are not, H.O. You are instead, creating a black-hole which not only sucks in and destroys everything that is nearby but, by actions and inactions, such shortcomings become blindingly obvious.

    Grenfell Tower is shameful in so many different aspects that it is a model for all that is wicked and stupid in our country. From what I know, the same can be said for our prison service. It’s heartbreaking.

    I sincerely wish you much success on your mission and hope you can inspire some positive actions before there are arson based prison riots – it’s only a matter of time.

    Regards, Zara

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    1. Thanks Zara. I missed a denial in the HO FOI disclosure about questions 6-8 and have added a correction to the blog. But it is equally troubling that the crown premises inspection group does not hold data on whether the prison establishments that it is supposed to inspect have sprinklers, flammable cladding or smoke alarms….

      Like

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