“Deeply worrying” government report on weekend in prison needs urgent action, says Pact

Pact, the Catholic prisons charity, has voiced its concerns about a new report from HM Inspectorate of Prisons which has claimed that ‘purposeful activity in prisons is the worst it has ever been.”

Inspectors visiting 11 prisons on Saturdays or Sundays found that most prisoners were spending at least 21 hours a day locked in their cells at the weekend. In one jail, prisoners were not unlocked at all for one of the two days except to collect their meals. Of more than 6,000 prisoners surveyed in 2022–23, 60% of men said that they spent less than two hours out of their cell on a typical Saturday or Sunday. This was more than double the proportion in the year before the pandemic (28%). The effect on women in prison was even starker; they were now four times more likely to say that they received less than two hours out of their cells at weekends (source: HM Inspector of Prisons prisoner survey data).

“Libraries were closed at weekends, and many prisoners had little to no time at all in the fresh air and could not even have a shower,” the report says.

“Even when prisoners were unlocked for a period of association, recreational equipment was broken and out of use, and there were too few activities to engage prisoners constructively.

In response to the report, Andy Keen-Downs, Chief Executive of Pact (the Prison Advice and Care Trust), said: “This is a deeply worrying report that paints a stark picture of prisons at weekends.

“Keeping people locked up for 21 hours a day can have a devastating impact on their health, putting lives at risk and hampering efforts to deliver prisons that are safe and decent.

“It also undermines the Government’s efforts to reduce reoffending. People who are released without the right skills and support are more likely to reoffend and to end up back at square one.

“The Government urgently needs a credible plan to deal with staff shortages. You can’t run safe, decent prisons for seven days a week without enough confident, professional, experienced staff.”


About the Prison Advice & Care Trust (Pact)

Pact is a pioneering national, Catholic charity that supports prisoners, people with convictions, and their children and families. We provide caring and life changing services at every stage of the criminal justice process: in court, in prison, on release, and in the community.

Pact’s vision is of a society in which justice is understood as a process of restoration and healing, in which prisons are used sparingly and as places of learning and rehabilitation, and in which the innate dignity and worth of every human being is valued.  We work for the common good of society, taking a public health-based approach. We work at the intersection of criminal justice, child and family welfare, mental health, wellbeing provision and health & social care.

Pact volunteers and staff can be found in courts, prisons, probation services, and in communities across England & Wales.  Building on our Catholic roots, we are a diverse, inclusive, modern, and collaborative charity.  We build effective partnerships and sustainable solutions based on our well-established understanding of the systems in which we work, and on our historic values and ethos developed through our 120+ years of service delivery.


Pact is a charity registered in England & Wales, number 219278.

Company registration number: 356443.

Registered office: 29 Peckham Road, London, SE5 8UA