Inmates’ families blast ‘inhumane conditions’ at Exeter Prison

'Cooped up like that 24/7, he will lose the plot soon. He is desperately hanging on. He is in tears asking 'What can I do, mum? Please get me out of here'

Exeter Prison

Inmates at Exeter Prison are having to spend 24 hours a day locked in their cells and are not even allowed out to wash due to restrictions caused by Covid-19.

That is according to concerned loved ones who have friends, family and other halves inside the category B prison.

Earlier today, DevonLive revealed that a Covid-19 outbreak had hit the jail, affecting both inmates and staff and causing those behind bars to be kept in strict lockdown conditions.

The Ministry of Justice says these protocols are necessary to stop the spread, and that they are in line with public health guidance.

But those on the outside say they are worried for the physical and mental well-being of their loved ones on the inside – with some fearing what will happen to them if the Draconian restrictions continue.

Karen Duxbury-Watkinson’s son, Alexander, was jailed for a total of three years and eight months for drug dealing. His case took three years to come to court due to ongoing related investigations, during which time he moved away from Devon, rebuilt his life and started his own business which had to shut down due to the coronavirus pandemic.

She says her son – who apparently has attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and Asperger syndrome – has not been allowed out of his cell for six days and counting.

During that time, he has not had a shower, has had no exercise and has been placed under suicide watch.

“I’m just waiting for that call from the prison saying: I’m sorry, he’s done something stupid and he’s no longer with us,” Karen said.

“I desperately hope not but you just don’t know.

Exeter Prison
Exeter Prison. MATT AUSTIN XCC700840_MA_30 (Image: DevonLive/MATT AUSTIN)

“He rang me on Monday and said they are under continual lockdown. It is now day six of no showers, no hot water, no time out of their cells, no heating in his cell, full bins in his cell. He can’t clean his cell, he can’t exercise.

“Cooped up like that 24/7, he will lose the plot soon. He is desperately hanging on. He is in tears asking ‘What can I do, mum? Please get me out of here’.

“I appreciate he was a reprobate. We had huge problems with him but he turned his life around. He did the crime and he is doing the time – he put his hands up. But now he is being treated like a caged animal with no rights.

“He can’t even get clean and they are feeding him pigswill. He had stew made from baked beans the other day – there is no fruit or veg or meat. They are all going bonkers in there.”

Karen has not seen Alex since he was sent to prison. Online face-to-face time – known as purple visits – were initially allowed, but she says now even these have come to an end.

And Karen is not the only one.

Another woman, who did not want to be named, says her partner – based in C wing of the prison – is being subjected to similar treatment.

Despite not testing positive for Covid-19, her partner has been confined to his cell since Wednesday, February 10.

He has not been able to shower during that time and also has rubbish bins overflowing in his room. He was also apparently fed just a bowl of rice at one meal time.https://www.inyourarea.co.uk/widgets/established/vaccinationCentres

“He’s also being denied health treatment. He’s been asking to speak to a mental health worker for five days but has been told he can’t. He can’t get out for exercise, he can’t top up his phone to talk to loved ones.

“I know they have done wrong and they are being punished for that but this is awful. I have written to the governor but I have heard nothing in response.

“He phoned me with his last bit of credit on his cell phone and told me about this. He has bad mental health and he is suffering, which is why he wanted to talk to someone, but this is making it so bad.”

DevonLive understands that prisoners have been issued with a letter asking for their cooperation while they try and overcome the outbreak and bring the prison back to its normal regime.

Fancy - Salmon fishcakes and halal roast chicken leg bordelaise are on the menu at Exeter Prison at Christmas
Exeter Prison is battling a Covid-19 outbreak

The ongoing lockdown across England means relatives are not able to visit inmates, unless there are exceptional circumstances.

Any member of staff or visitor who develops symptoms should be sent home and should also arrange to have a test. They should follow the stay-at-home guidance. Any member of staff who lives with someone else who shows symptoms of coronavirus must also stay at home and self-isolate.

The Government website says any prisoner or detainee with symptoms of coronavirus should be placed in protective isolation for at least 10 days, while ‘arrangements should be made to have them tested for the infection immediately’.

But the mother of one prisoner, who tested positive for Covid-19 around a week ago, says he has simply been left in his cell and has not been examined by a medical professional or given any medication to alleviate his symptoms.

“They are being treating like wild animals,” she said. “It sounds like prisons from centuries gone by when people were treated this way – they had no resources and people did not know any better.

“We are concerned for the bad treatment of sick prisoners – this is inhumane.”

After being contacted by DevonLive, aPrison Service spokesperson responded:”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 Exeter, in line with public health guidance, and will continue to closely monitor the situation.”

This article first appeared on Devon Live

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