A mum whose son was sent to the same prison as Daniel Khalife has branded it “the worst” as it is “understaffed” and riddled with severe problems.
The mum, who only wishes to remain anonymous to protect her son’s identity, spent months trying to get her son moved out of Wandsworth Prison after she watched his mental health plummet.
Speaking to Express.co.uk, she has lifted the lid on her son’s experience in the prison. She claims many of the staff fail to deal with the inmates properly and alleges they “ignored” her son’s “quick” deterioration despite him being close to taking his own life.
It comes just days after suspected terrorist Khalife, 21, was able to escape from the prison beneath a van and was on the run for four days before he was captured on Saturday, September 9 by undercover police officers.
She claims to Express.co.uk that “the prison is clearly understaffed and overwhelmed with the current number of inmates which has led to a prison being able to escape”.
The mum says she has been “banging my head for months” trying to get her son moved to a hospital in fear her son will take his own life after he started showing signs of severe psychosis but was left untreated.
Her son, aged in his twenties, went from being a sociable prisoner, who was even a proud Samaritan listener for other inmates and would call his mum regularly, to being cut off, paranoid and vulnerable – believing his girlfriend and mum were in the prison with him.
There is “no way they couldn’t see the decline,” she added.
She also claims her son told her some men in the prison were slashing their own faces only to be thrown toilet rolls through the cell doors and told to “sort it out” and “wipe it up”.
The allegations come amid rising calls to close the prison which was first opened in 1851 after inmates spoke out about poor conditions at the jail.
Earlier this year, it was reported another prisoner at HMP Wandsworth said he was trying to see a psychiatrist for three months, only days before he was found hanged in his cell.
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She claimed: “My son went into Wandsworth in November and said it’s the worst prison he’s ever been in.
“He’s been in some not-particularly-great places. But I’ve never seen a deterioration like it in him, so quickly.”
Over the years, the facility has been slammed by hundreds for the conditions inside. One inmate called it a “powder keg” waiting to explode with demoralised inmates in cooped up in cramped cells.
The prison is filled with roughly 1,500 inmates – double the capacity it was designed to accommodate. Charlie Taylor, the Chief Inspector of the prison said in a report last year: “One group of prisoners… who came blinking into the sunlight, told me that it was the first time they had been outside for more than a week.”
Mr Taylor said the facility was “crumbling and overcrowded” with poor hygiene and rat, pigeon and mouse infestations.
The mum said her son, who we have chosen not to name to protect his identity, started to become increasingly paranoid and delusional in June prompting her to send weekly emails to the prison, reporting on changes in his personality that she had noticed.
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However, The Express understands he wasn’t seen until a month later when she directly contacted a mental health official after finding their email address in a forwarded email thread.
When the mental health team did finally visit her son, she claims he covered up his symptoms – which she understands is him masking his condition because of his paranoia. By this point, his contact with his mum also started to “dwindle”, something she attributes to his worsening mental state.
In an email seen by Express.co.uk, HMP Wandsworth said: “Let me reassure you that your son was seen following referral by health care team and on each occasion, a thorough assessment of his needs was carried out.
“At the time, there was no significant concerns noted or expressed by your son. He was asked to sign a consent letter so information could be shared with you but declined.”
“They would know that people mask their symptoms.”
“They just kept saying ‘let us reassure you, he’s being seen’,” she said.
She added: “He needs therapeutic intervention not officers just ignoring his symptoms. With psychosis, there’s a higher chance of suicide and as soon as they get treatment, I think the better the outcome.
“He needs compassion and to understand that he’s a threat because of psychosis, not because he is the threat.”
In the email, sent on August 4, HMP informed the mum that he had been moved to HMP Isis, where he is “finally” receiving better care from NHS Oxleas staff.
A prison officer at Isis said her son was still denying that he was hearing voices, although “the way he was presenting himself” raised some suspicions, unlike at HMP Wandsworth.
She said: “They’re going to offer him medication. If he doesn’t agree, they’re going to look at him getting sectioned. They should have done this ages ago.”
She added: “How many other prisoners are suffering like this and there’s just no awareness that people are being left.”
In April this year, it was reported another prisoner at HMP Wandsworth said he was trying to see a psychiatrist for three months, only days before he was found hanged in his cell.
The mental health team there failed to follow up on concerns prison staff raised about Sean McKeown’s mental health in the days leading to his death, in June 2019, a watchdog report said. A post-mortem inspection found Mr McKeown had used psychoactive drugs before his death.
The report said: “The officer also spoke in person to an unidentified nurse from the mental health team who agreed to check on Mr McKeown. However, no one from the mental health team saw Mr McKeown in the days before his death or recorded the concerns raised by wing staff about his mental health.”
In response to the report, a spokesperson for Her Majesty’s Prison Service said: “Our thoughts remain with Mr McKeown’s family and friends. We have reviewed the ombudsman’s report and have already implemented all its recommendations to improve the care and safety of prisoners – including rolling out new training for staff and appointing a drug strategy lead to crack down on illicit substances that fuel self-harm.”
Express.co.uk contacted Her Majesty’s Prison Service about the mum’s fresh claims of poor care but the public body refused to comment as “prison healthcare is the responsibility of NHS England”.
Fuming at the response to the HMPS’ decision not to comment on the healthcare claims she said: “I think that’s wrong. The prison has a duty of care towards its inmates and there’s no way that they couldn’t see the decline in my sons mental health. One minute he was out painting, cleaning and being a listener and the next he wouldn’t speak to anyone. Healthcare and the prison have a responsibility for him.”
Express.co.uk has contacted NHS England for comment.
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