A prisoner is calling for the UN's Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to step in claiming the "government’s mismanagement of the Covid-19 crisis is putting her and other prisoners’ lives at risk".

The 58-year-old inmate from Kings Langley claims conditions since the start of the pandemic have caused "increased mental anguish and severe risk to prisoners’ physical health, breaching her human rights".

The woman, who has asked not to be named, is currently serving an 18 month sentence for fraud at HMP Downview in Surrey - a prison which the Ministry of Justice (MOJ) says has not recorded any cases of Covid-19.

According to her husband, the prisoner has a number of underlying health conditions including asthma and borderline diabetes.

The prisoner, a mother-of-two, claims inmates have no access to hand sanitiser and have been kept in their cells for up to 23-hours a day to maintain social distancing.

All visits from family and friends have been cancelled - although HMP Downview is one of four female prisons to benefit from video call technology - and there are claims inmates are suffering from a lack of fresh air and nourishing food.

The husband of the prisoner, who was sentenced in March, said: "She (my wife) has high and lows. In the circumstances it is extremely difficult and this has affected her mental health and has affected other female prisoners as well.

"Being locked up for so long with depression and little-to-no medical care is affecting her mental health. It's inhumane.

"When she’s down, I feel terribly helpless but she knows I support her one million per cent. We have to take things day by day."

The husband has petitioned the Office for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to intervene - he says that under the UN's International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, her right to life and right not to suffer torture, cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment have been violated.

The inmate’s complaints are being backed by The View Magazine, a publication campaigning for better treatment of women in prison, and human rights and prison law barrister Carl Buckley, of Guernica 37 International Chambers.

If the petition is accepted by the Human Rights Council, it will seek a response from the UK government and may make recommendations over what steps should be taken.

Mr Buckley, who drafted the petition, said: "The government’s answer to the ongoing pandemic is apparently to hold vast swathes of the prison population in solitary confinement for up to 23 hours a day. This wholly inappropriate response fails to consider the physical and mental health concerns of all vulnerable inmates and amounts to discriminatory practices.

"There are a significant number of inmates who do not pose any risk and who could be appropriately released, yet there appears to be a refusal or reluctance to do so.

"We consider the conditions placed on these inmates to be a serious breach of human rights by the UK government and we are urging the UN to intervene."

Along with claims of poor prison conditions, the petition accuses the Ministry of Justice of "failing to properly implement its pledge" to consider early release for around 4,000 inmates who are within two-months of their statutory release date to ease crowding in prisons. The policy also extends to prisoners who are pregnant.

The policy has resulted in the release of just 81 inmates and only 14 pregnant women out of a possible 86.

The inmate submitting the petition wants the criteria extended to vulnerable, non-violent offenders like herself, given the significant risk posed to her during the Covid-19 crisis. Her own application for early release was previously rejected by the Probation Service.

Between June 2 and June 9, 479 prisoners tested positive for COVID-19 across 79 prisons, and 940 prison staff have tested positive for COVID-19 across 105 prisons - but these numbers are thought to be higher.

The MOJ says it is now considering how to safely restart aspects of daily prison life, such as social visits, education and work over the coming weeks and months.

A spokesperson added: "The public would rightly expect prisoners at the beginning of their sentence, who are not assessed as medically vulnerable, to serve their time in custody.”

"The measures we introduced have helped save lives and protect the NHS and at HMP Downview, and across the country, health experts have praised the efforts of staff who have successfully limited the spread of the virus.

"To help women in custody remain in contact with their families, we have given them extra time on the phone and installed new video call technology at four women’s prisons."