HMP Northumberland’s “many plans” have had no effect on high violence, poor safety & drugs

[su_box title=”OVERALL RECOMMENDATIONS ACHIEVED SINCE LAST INSPECTION: 32%” box_color=”#c51414″ title_color=”#ffffff”]Safety: At the last inspection in 2014, HMIP made 16 recommendations in the area of safety. At this follow-up inspection they found that four of the recommendations had been achieved. (25%)
Respect: At the last inspection in 2014, HMIP made 30 recommendations in the area of respect. At this follow-up inspection they found that 13 of the recommendations had been achieved. (43%).
Purposeful Activity: At the last inspection in 2014, HMIP made 16 recommendations in the area of purposeful activity. At this follow-up inspection they found that two of the recommendations had been achieved. (12.5%).
Resettlement: At the last inspection in 2014, HMIP made 14 recommendations in the area of resettlement. At this follow-up inspection they found that seven of the recommendations had been achieved. (50%).[/su_box]


HMP Northumberland has high levels of violence, with more than a quarter of prisoners feeling unsafe, and severe drugs problems, according to an HM Inspectorate of Prisons report.

The prison had suffered six self-inflicted deaths in the last three years but few of the shortcomings identified by investigations into those deaths had been addressed. And there was a “clearly unacceptable” failure to assess the risk posed to the public by many released prisoners.

Peter Clarke, HM Chief Inspector of Prisons, said the leadership team had a wide range of plans and strategies in place to tackle these and other problems “but many of them had yet to achieve their desired effect.”

HMP Northumberland, a category C jailed formed in 2011, was inspected in July and August. Inspectors were concerned to find that:

  • Violence had more than doubled since the previous inspection in 2014; 58% had felt unsafe at some time, a significantly higher figure than at similar prisons and much higher than at the last inspection.” Mr Clarke said: “It was also troubling that 28% of prisoners felt unsafe at the time of this inspection, a very high figure by any standards. In the face of this grim picture, one would have expected there to be detailed analysis of the violence, leading to a comprehensive violence reduction plan. This was not what we found. There were plans for the future, but these had not yet come to fruition.”
  • Few of the shortcomings identified by Prisons and Probation Ombudsman (PPO) investigations into the six self-inflicted deaths since 2104 had been addressed. “This was difficult to comprehend and demanded the personal attention of senior management,” Mr Clarke said.
  • A total of 61% of men said that it was easy or very easy to obtain illicit drugs in the jail, and 21% said they had acquired a drug habit since entering the prison. The drug supply reduction strategy was clearly not working, Mr Clarke said.
  • Inspectors were particularly concerned that 59% of prisoners covered by MAPPA (multi-agency public protection arrangements to assess risk and protect the public) were being released without confirmation of their MAPPA level. “This was clearly unacceptable in terms of the risk this could potentially pose to the public,” Mr Clarke said.
  • There were also serious concerns about some aspects of medicines management.

On a more positive note, inspectors found some excellent work in a residential unit dedicated to older prisoners, and it was obvious that the men valued the opportunity to be there among their peers, away from what they described as “the noise, violence and drugs.” Activities for over 50s in a weekly club run by an Age UK included carpet bowls, speakers, quizzes and table games.

Overall, Mr Clarke said:

“There was a very clear determination on the part of the director and leadership of the prison to make improvements, and a palpable energy and enthusiasm about their wish to do so. It is to their credit that there were a wide range of plans and strategies in place, but many of them had yet to achieve their desired effect. HM Inspectorate of Prisons is often encouraged to believe that if we had inspected an establishment a few months later than we actually did, we would have seen significant improvements. This report conveys our actual findings at the time of the inspection. It may well be that the plans we were told about will, in due course, lead to improvement, and this may happen at HMP Northumberland. It is to be hoped that this will be the case.”

Michael Spurr, Chief Executive of HM Prison and Probation Service, said:

“The Director at HMP Northumberland has taken firm action to drive forward progress at the prison. Since the report, the prison has set up a team to specifically review the prison’s management of violence and additional safer custody staff will also help improve the prison’s self-harm response. We welcome the Inspector’s acknowledgement of the good work taking place in substance misuse services, as well as with older prisoners and families, and will continue to work with the director to address the remainder of the report’s recommendations.”

A copy of the full report, published on 21 November 2017, can be found on the HM Inspectorate of Prisons website at:

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.