Category Archives: Violence in prison
HM Chief Inspector of Prisons,Nick Hardwick, above, in a report on Ashield Young Offender Institution published today says:
In January 2013, the Justice Secretary announced plans to close HMYOI Ashfield and re-role it as an adult prison. The inspectorate had plans to conduct an unannounced inspection of the establishment in February 2013. We decided to proceed with the inspection to ensure that the young people who continued to be held there were held safely and decently during the transition, and that plans in place to ensure their move to another establishment or release were well managed.
We focused the inspection on areas of greatest concern and produced this truncated report more quickly than usual so it could be of use before the establishment closed. Because we did not look at every area of the establishment, we have not graded it against each healthy prison test, as is our normal practice. As usual, we gave immediate, detailed feedback to the establishment and Youth Justice Board (YJB) at the end of the inspection.
At the time of the inspection, the establishment was just one-third full and held 123 young people, most of whom were aged 16 or 17. This compared with a population of 332 at the time of our last inspection, and an average of 237 in 2012. Ashfield had an operational capacity of 360.
Our concerns about safety appeared to have been justified. Despite the reduction in numbers held, there had been a sharp increase in self-harm incidents since the closure announcement. The number of formal disciplinary proceedings or adjudications was high, and fights and assaults accounted for two-thirds of the charges laid. The highest number of adjudications per 100 of the population was in January 2013. Levels of violence were high. There were 351 fights and 377 assaults in 2012 and staff told us there had been an increase in the overall number of violent incidents since the closure announcement. In the 12 months to January 2013, there had been 43 serious fights, of which 37 had resulted in serious injury and six in minor injury. Five staff had been assaulted in the same period. Use of force by staff was also high in 2012 and two boys had suffered broken bones following staff use of force.
As at other young offender institutions (YOIs), young people were routinely strip-searched when they entered or left reception. Of 3,773 such searches over the last 12 months, just one had resulted in a find.
Despite the levels of violence, young people did not tell us they did not feel safe. We were also pleased that the segregation unit had been closed since our last inspection, and there were some good systems to address the particularly poor behaviour of some young people.
The environment was reasonable, although needing some attention. Young people could have telephones in their cells, which was a good initiative. Relationships between staff and the young people were good. We were impressed by the way in which staff put their own anxieties about the change aside and did not let this affect their dealings with the young people. Health care was good.
Young people had good access to education and training. However, with the rundown of the establishment it was increasingly difficult to motivate the young people and there was a concern that provision for those transferring elsewhere would not be effectively linked to the work they had done at Ashfield.
During the course of the inspection, we were particularly concerned about resettlement and transition planning. There was a lack of effective joint strategic planning between the YJB and Ashfield. Poor communication between the interested parties was causing widespread confusion. Young people were becoming increasingly agitated because they did not understand what was happening. Some services would be discontinued before all young people had left Ashfield. Overall, we were not confident that the best interests of the young person were always considered.
We have reported our concern about high levels of violence at a number of recent inspections of YOIs holding children and young people. At Ashfield too, young people’s safety was compromised because they were exposed to unacceptable levels of violence – and there is some evidence the situation has deteriorated since the closure decision was announced. Planning for the closure itself was not effectively coordinated between the YJB and Ashfield, and the needs of individual young people were not carefully considered. The anxiety and uncertainty this created may well have contributed to the tension at the establishment. It certainly means that young people are not being adequately prepared for transfer or release. The establishment and the YJB will need to work effectively together, not just to improve the situation but also to ensure it does not deteriorate further.
Two prison officers have been taken hostage and attacked by three inmates at a maximum-security jail near York.
The incident on Sunday at Full Sutton Prison in East Yorkshire lasted for four hours.
The Prison Service said the staff were treated for injuries which were not thought to be life-threatening.
The Prison Officer’s Association (POA) said it was aware of the “hostage incident”. The North East Counter Terrorism Unit is investigating.
The POA said it was sending a national representative to the prison to determine exactly what happened.
Steve Gillan, the POA’s general secretary, said: “Until the full facts of the incident are known we do not wish to comment further for fear of compromising any police investigation.
“We can confirm that officers sustained injuries and had it not been for the professionalism of prison officers dealing with this violent incident the outcome could have been worse.”
The Prison Service spokeswoman said the incident started at 16:25 BST and ended at 20:40 “after staff intervened”.
She would not confirm reports that one of the prison officers was held hostage and stabbed, or give details of the identities of the prisoners involved.
Mark Leech editor of Converse the national newspaper for prisoners said the High Security Estate was currently on ‘tenterhooks’
“Since the savage and brutal murder of Drummer Lee Rigby the whole of our High Security Prison Estate has been on tenterhooks, prison staff have been advised to be extra vigilant for anti-muslim tensions or pre-emptive attacks by muslim inmates who fear for their safety in the aftermath of the soldier’s murder.
“Our High Security prisons are extremely difficult to manage at the best of times, in the current climate they become even more so and its a tribute to the Tornado Team who made the intervention that no serious injuries were sustained.”
A prisoner at Full Sutton maximum security prison near York is in a critical condition after another prisoner slashed his throat with a knife.
Mark Leech, editor of Converse the national newspaper for prisoners in England and Wales said:
“Converse sources at the jail told the newspaper that the whole prison had gone into lock down following the assault on 25th April and the inmate was rushed to a local hosital where he is in a critical condition.”
Full Sutton is one of eight prisons which form part of the High Security Estate, holding long term prisoners including terrorists, murderers and those who will never be released
In the 2012 annual report by the Independent Monitoring Board for Full Sutton, the Board said assaults were down by 57 per cent since 2008, thanks to a good staff-prisoner relationships and a tight hold on security, but they warned that budget cuts of £1.1m in 2013/14 “will lead to a potential loss of control, making the prison unsafe for both staff and prisoners.”
A report by the Prisons Inspectorate earlier this year said that Full Sutton Prison near Pocklington “dealt very effectively with challenges other prisons find difficult to manage”.
It said that “levels of violence were low, drug use was low and there was a range of good quality, well-managed purposeful activity available.”
However Inspectors expressed concerns about the segregation unit where Inspectors criticised the unit for a “insufficient focus on improving behaviour and helping men reintegrate back on the main wings.”.
The report said: “It is generally an impressive establishment that maintains an effective balance between providing the necessary levels of security and affording the men it holds decent treatment and conditions.”
The jail was opened 11 years ago and holds around 600 of the country’s most serious offenders.
HM Chief Inspector of Prisons, Nick Hardwick, in a report on Hindley Prison published today (25th April) says:
HM Young Offender Institution Hindley is a large establishment just outside Wigan with the capacity to hold 440 boys and young people aged 15 to 18. At the time of this inspection it was only just over one-third full.
First impressions are of a pretty bleak, prison-like environment and the obvious youth of many of those held. However, the inspection found commendable efforts to soften the environment, and some determined efforts to address some of the damage that had been done to these young people before they arrived at Hindley and reduce the damage they do to others. The arrangements for a young person’s first few days at Hindley were particularly good – although, as at other establishments, needlessly undermined by the NOMS requirement that every new arrival should be strip searched when they first arrived.
Many of the young people arriving at Hindley had poor previous experience of education – almost half told us they were 14 or younger when they last left school; nine out of 10 had been excluded; eight out of 10 had played truant. So it is a tribute to the establishment that the quality of education and activities was good, and that young people made good progress and obtained qualifications. It was very welcome that speech and language therapy was available when required. Standards of behaviour were much better than that seen in some schools. More could have been done to enable young people to get real work experience in the community, and it was frustrating that half left Hindley without a confirmed education or training place – threatening to waste the progress they had made there.
In other respects, the work to prepare young people for release was good, and better than we normally see. Few young people left without suitable accommodation to go to, and there was good support with family relationships, substance misuse and health issues, and managing money. Effective work was carried out throughout the sentence to address young people’s offending behaviour. The Willow unit provided necessary intensive support to a small number of young people with the most complex needs, although the effectiveness of the therapeutic approach adopted risked being undermined by the length of time these young people spent locked in their cells.
Although there had been efforts in some wings to make the environment more appropriate for young people, in others it remained bleak and austere. The establishment was generally clean and tidy and most cells were in reasonable condition. Most young people had about nine hours out of their cells each day and a decent amount of association time, although insufficient opportunity to work off energy exercising in the open air. There were concerns that imminent changes to the core day arising from a central directive might reduce time out of cell at Hindley – this would be very regrettable.
Relationships between staff and young people were generally good and some young people spoke very highly of the officers who dealt with them. I witnessed examples of some real kindness and effective care – one member of staff had somehow got a horse into the establishment for one very troubled and challenging boy from the Traveller community to care for. As he worked on the horse, she worked on the boy – to much greater effect than more conventional interventions might have achieved. However, we also heard persistent, consistent and credible complaints about the abusive behaviour of a small number of officers. The governor had taken robust action when inappropriate conduct by staff had been identified. These generally good relationships were underpinned by sound processes. Management of diversity and complaints was good, and health care and the chaplaincy both provided very good services.
Nevertheless, despite these real strengths, Hindley was not sufficiently safe. On average, there was a fight or assault almost every day, and some of these were very serious. We were not assured the establishment had an effective grip on what was happening. The number of perpetrators and victims on violence reduction or support measures was not consistent with the number of incidents, and data were not used effectively to identify and address patterns and trends. Investigations into some alleged bullying incidents were not sufficiently rigorous. The number of adjudications and lesser ‘minor reports’ were both much higher than we see elsewhere, with 1,800 adjudications in the first 10 months of 2012, and almost 3,000 minor reports in the same period. Some of these incidents could have been better dealt with more informally.
Use of force was also very high, although much did not involve full control and restraint. Staff sometimes put themselves in harm’s way to prevent injury to young people. Governance of the use of force had improved after some young people had been badly hurt two years previously. The segregation unit was cramped and run-down, and although relationships with staff were generally good, the regime was inadequate, especially for the few young people held there for lengthy periods.
Like all juvenile prisons, Hindley held some very unhappy young people. There had been a very sad self-inflicted death at the beginning of 2012, and the establishment had taken early action as a result of the findings of an investigation into the incident. The number of self-harm incidents remained high (although relatively low level) and, despite the reduction in the population, the number of incidents each month had grown by 18% over the previous year. However, we were not assured that the drive to learn and implement lessons from the death in 2012 was being sustained, and some staff were not clear about their responsibilities in this area.
We were concerned that the sheer volume of violent and self-harm incidents threatened to be overwhelming. For the most part, individual incidents were dealt with well but there needed to be more complete strategic oversight of the entire picture that made the links between bullying and self-harm and kept responses to both perpetrators and victims under review. The safeguarding committee with its external membership appeared to be best placed to do this.
Even only one-third full, and despite very good work, HMYOI Hindley illustrates the difficulty such establishments have in discharging their most fundamental responsibility – keeping the young people they hold safe. There has been a suggestion that as the number of young people in custody declines, those who continue to be held will be a more concentrated mix of the most challenging and unhappy young people. Other recent inspections of YOIs have also identified establishments having much greater difficulty in keeping young people safe.
The YJB, ministers and other policymakers should consider this very carefully as they plan the future development of the youth custody estate.
Mark Leech, editor of Converse the national prisoners newspaper for England and Wales said it was a ‘deeply troubling report’.
“No one reading this deeply troubling report can fail to be dismayed by the seriously high levels of self-harm and the high levels of use of force by staff.
“The fact that some rogue officers appear to be abusing prisoners is a matter which the police should be required to investigate – Hindley holds some very damaged young boys and young adults, it is vital they are not subject to physical abuse by staff who think they can get away with it.”
The ex-governor of a high security jail where three prison officers were stabbed by a triple murderer said today he felt “let down, dismayed and humiliated” after a jury cleared the inmate of all charges.
Kevan Thakrar, 24, admitted stabbing the members of staff at Frankland Prison, Durham, in March last year with a broken chilli bottle but claimed he lashed out in self-defence as he feared he was about to be attacked.
Thakrar, from Stevenage, Hertfordshire, was suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder as a result of previous prison experiences, Newcastle Crown Court heard.
A jury took eight hours and 15 minutes to clear him of two counts of attempted murder and three counts of wounding with intent.
He was serving at least 35 years of a life sentence for the drug-related murder of three men and the attempted murder of two women carried in Bishops Stortford with his brother Miran in 2007.
David Thompson, who retired as governor of Frankland last month and was in charge when officers Craig Wylde, Claire Lewis and Neil Walker were attacked, was deeply upset by the verdicts.
He said officers Wylde and Lewis will not work in the prison service again and that Mr Walker courageously saved Ms Lewis from worse injuries by tackling Thakrar.
Mr Thompson said afterwards: “I should remind everyone that these officers and every member of staff at Frankland and the prison service in general are public servants.
“Their work is out of sight but it requires the highest level of professionalism, courage and conviction.
“It is often unseen and under-reported.
“They deserve better recognition and they deserve better support than we have seen from the outcome of this case.
“Prison officers have to deal with the country’s most difficult and most dangerous individuals and they have to perform those duties within the confines of the law.
“They are not above the law, nor should they be.
“In this case, other criminal justice professionals have been amazed by how professional and restrained they were in dealing with the assailant immediately after the incident.”
Thakrar, who wept as the verdicts were returned and thanked the jury, claimed he was exposed to racism at Frankland.
Mr Thompson said the injured officers were “decent people”.
“They are not the sort of people who deserve to find themselves in this terrible, hurtful situation,” he said.
“Staff at Frankland and elsewhere across the service will feel let down, dismayed and humiliated by part of the criminal justice system in which they serve.
“Colleagues in other professional agencies have expressed their dismay at how a case like this can be conducted in a manner where the victims feel they are on trial, that they have done something wrong, and then for the assailant to be exonerated.”
Mr Justice Simon thanked the jury at the outcome of the case and instructed that they do not have to sit again for 10 years.
He also expressed sympathy to the injured guards, adding: “It was not part of the defence case in any way that they brought their injuries upon themselves.”
(Above Miran and Kevan Thrakar jailed for 42 years in 2008 for three murders)
A triple killer who stabbed his prison guards apologised today for wounding three officers in a savage attack outside his cell.
However Kevan Thakrar accused prison officers of a “stitch-up” intended to ensure he spent the rest of his life behind bars.
The 24-year-old, who is on trial for attempted murder and wounding with intent, claimed there was a conspiracy of silence among prison staff with regard to assaults by prison officers on inmates.
The former student and shop assistant told a jury at Newcastle Crown Court prison officers operated according to a principal of “see no evil, hear no evil” when it came to their colleagues’ “abuse of power”.
He said he was denied food and sleep the night before he used a broken bottle of hot pepper sauce to maim officers Craig Wylde, Claire Lewis and Neil Walker at Frankland High Security Prison, County Durham, in March last year.
He said: “It is obviously wrong what happened, the individuals that have been hurt, and I am sorry for that, but it should not have come to that.
“If you put an animal in a cage and you poke it, poke it and poke it and then unlock the door it is not going to just sit there is it?”
He accused wardens of planting the empty bottle in his cell in the hope he would use it to harm himself.
He claimed it was part of a plot to prevent him from attending court to appeal against his conviction in 2008 for the murders of three men and attempted murder of two women in a drug dispute.
Cross examining, prosecutor Tim Gittins said had tried to kill officers Wylde and Lewis with the bottle.
He said: “It had chunky, thick glass and it was empty, ready to be made into a weapon.
“It was a nice, handy size to be used as a weapon, as a shank.
“You made it into a very effective weapon, one capable of inflicting fatal violence, didn’t you?”
Thakrar, originally from Stevenage, in Hertfordshire, replied: “I was not in control.
“I was not thinking right.
“You’re trying to imply I was capable of making rational decisions having not slept, having not eaten, and having all those thoughts running round in my head.
“I had been awake all night.
“I was ready to go home in a few weeks after my appeal.
“Why would I do that?
“I believed I was going home.
“I should have gone home.”
The court heard Thakrar may have been suffering from post traumatic stress disorder at the time of the attack, as a result of his experiences in the British penal system since being locked up in 2007.
He denies all charges, saying he lashed out at the guards in self defence because he believed he was about to be attacked himself.
The trial continues tomorrow.
Mitchell Harrison, 23, who had been jailed for the rape of a 13-year-old schoolgirl, was discovered dead in his cell Sunday 2nd October by staff at HM Prison Frankland in Durham, north-east England, Sky News reported.
He was convicted of child rape last year and given an indefinite prison sentence.
The Daily Mail reported that Harrison had been disembowelled by makeshift weapons, believed to be razor blades melted into toothbrush handles, apparently after boasting about his sickening crime. The newspaper said the two suspects turned themselves in to prison officials.
The alleged killers, aged 32 and 23, are due to appear in court tomorrow. A third man who was arrested by detectives is no longer being held in connection with the incident.
The cell where Harrison was found was cordoned off pending a full forensic examination.
Detective Chief Inspector Steve Chapman said, “we are carrying out a full investigation into the circumstances leading to this man’s death and are working closely with the prison service”