PRISON inspectors have called on the Government to take action against overcrowding and poor living conditions for inmates at an Oxfordshire jail, asking whether conditions were humane.

A report on Bullingdon Prison near Bicester said measures imposed to control Covid meant most prisoners were spending 23 hours a day in their cells, which was exacerbated by chronic overcrowding.


READ MORE: Family horrified after pet cat is killed in front of them by two 'out of control' dogs

The prison, however, said measures imposed were to keep prisoners safe and said a national £4bn investment would provide 20,000 additional prison places throughout the country including at Bullingdon.

The report, by the prison’s independent monitoring board (IMB) looked at conditions at the prison for 12 months from July 2020. Though 521 cells are designed for single occupancy most of them were occupied by two prisoners. 

The volunteer-led board questioned whether it was humane for prisoners to have to share cells designed for single occupancy, especially since prisoners eat meals and use the toilet in their cells. Social visits and access to the library and gym were periodically suspended, and education and vocational training were initially curtailed but have now resumed. 

The board also highlighted concerns about safety for the sixth consecutive year and there were serious concerns about apparently self-inflicted deaths. 

The report said the prison struggled to deal with the mental health needs of certain prisoners. It said individuals who probably should be in a secure psychiatric institution had instead been held for far too long in the segregation unit, with some prisoners spending more than 42 days in its segregation, support and care unit (SSCU). 

Due to Covid restrictions, volunteer counsellors had also not been able to visit the prison during much of the year but the Prison Service said individuals suffering with mental health issues could access specialist support services through the prison.

In early April 2021, the prison was deemed to be in such an unsafe situation that the IMB’s chairman Ursula Keeling, wrote to the the board’s regional representative to set out serious concerns at the situation which was passed on to the Minister in May. 

Following a difficult weekend, there had been 42 men on so-called ‘assessment, care in custody and teamwork’ programmes, five prisoners on constant watch and five incidents of serious self-harm all in one day. 

The separation unit had also reached its maximum capacity of 20 prisoners, nine ambulances were called to the prison and there were serious staff shortages in healthcare.

The board did commend the prison for keeping the prison largely covid-free until January 2021.

IMB Bullingdon chairman Ms Keeling, said: “The pandemic has had a major impact on efforts by the prison to meet prisoners’ health and wellbeing needs, in spite of the best efforts of staff.


“Lengthy periods in cell were made worse by the current level of overcrowding and this is among several matters which the Board intends to raise with the minister.

“Violence levels continue to be too high as is the quantity of drugs coming into the prison.” 

A Prison Service spokesperson said: “Our actions during the pandemic have kept prisoners safe and the report recognises the efforts of Bullingdon staff during this challenging time.


"We have prioritised prisoners’ rehabilitation and mental health through vital family contact, education, specialist support and exercise.”



Keep up to date with all the latest news on our website, or follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram

For news updates straight to your inbox, sign up to our newsletter here

Have you got a story for us? Contact our newsdesk on or 01865 425 445.