Prison staff predicted trouble


Staff at a private prison where disorder broke out predicted there would be trouble when the workforce was dramatically cut, a union official has said.

Around 50 inmates at HMP Northumberland were involved in the serious disorder on Friday night.

It required the assistance of specially-trained colleagues from other prisons around the North East to stop the trouble around seven hours later.

Terry Fullerton, who represents the region on the Prison Officers’ Association national executive committee, said members had raised concerns about staffing levels as far back as December.

He said since then around 130 staff had left, leaving fewer than 200 uniformed staff to guard 1,350 inmates.

“Staff were concerned that the reduction would lead to something like what came to happen on Friday night,” he said.

Inmates refused to return to their cells and warned staff to leave the area, which they did, allowing them to take over until a specialist squad of officers was assembled.

On-site services provider Sodexo said an investigation was being held into what happened.

Mr Fullerton believed inmates will have come to realise staffing levels were low enough for them to take over.

He said: “It doesn’t take inmates long to realise that staffing levels have reduced, and that there are less of the ‘white shirts’ that are needed to keep control.”

The union official said inmates at HMP Northumberland had been risk-assessed and deemed to be suitable for a category C prison, yet some of them would be convicted murderers, paedophiles and drug dealers.

Inmates ‘take over wing’ at Northumberland prison


More than 50 inmates reportedly took over part of a prison wing.

The incident broke out at HMP Northumberland in Morpeth at around 7.30pm yesterday.

Officials at the prison confirmed a “disturbance” had taken place, but dismissed as “speculation” the suggestion of a stand-off between inmates and guards, and there were no reports of any injuries.

But Prison Officers Association general secretary Steve Gillan told the BBC that there was a stand-off.

He said last night: “We do not know what has sparked this major incident, but I do know that 50 plus inmates have taken over a wing,” he said.

“We have teams from other establishments trained to deal with riots on their way. There is concerted indiscipline and our officers will try to contain it.”

The trouble broke out after prisoners refused to go back to their cells, the BBC said, while police were put on standby ready to assist.

A spokesman for Sodexo, which operates the prison, said the situation has now been resolved.

He said: “We can confirm there was a disturbance at HMP Northumberland.

“It was confined to part of one wing of the prison and has now been resolved. We will carry out an investigation into this incident.”

HMP Northumberland houses around 1,350 inmates and is a category C prison, for prisoners who cannot be trusted in open conditions but who are unlikely to make a determined attempt to escape.

Sodexo Justice Services took over the management of the prison in December last year.