EXCLUSIVE! Prisoners Owe £2.25 million in Unpaid Prison Damage Compensation Orders.



Prisoners in England and Wales owe £2.25million to the taxpayer for damage caused to prisons and prison property.

Since a change to the Prison Rules that came into effect in November 2013, with Prison Service Instruction 31/2013, prisons in England and Wales have been able to impose a requirement that a prisoner pay compensation via a Damage Obligation Order (doo) for the destruction or damage they cause to prisons and prison property – and it allows prison Governors to take monies directly from a prisoner’s money account held at the prison to satisfy the compensation debt.

The compensation ordered to be paid has to be for the full value of the damage caused, up to a maximum of £2,000, and the debts last for a maximum of two years or until a prisoner’s sentence expires; whichever is the sooner and money cannot be collected past this point.

In recent times there have been reports of serious disturbances in a number of prisons across England and Wales.

In October 2016, a national response unit (Tornado riots teams) were brought into control prisoners in a wing at HMP Lewes, East Sussex.

In November 2016, there were reports of a riot involving 230 prisoners at HMP Bedford, and disturbances involving 40 prisoners at HMP Moorland in Yorkshire.

In December 2016, 240 prisoners had to be moved after a twelve hour riot at HMP Birmingham, and inmates reportedly took over part of Swaleside Prison on the Isle of Sheppey in Kent.

Mark Leech, editor of The Prisons Handbook for England and Wales criticised the compensation orders as ‘unworkable’ when they were introduced by the then Justice Secretary Chris Grayling, saying that as the vast majority of prisoners have little or no money to pay any such compensation order with, the reality was that debts would simply continue to mount – and now evidence obtained from the Ministry of Justice shows that is exactly what has happened.

In March 2017 Mr Leech submitted a Freedom of Information Act request to the MOJ asking for details of how much money remains unpaid by prisoners subject to a doo.

Despite the law requiring a response to the FOIA request within 28 days, it took 15 months of persistent questions before the MOJ finally released the information showing that, as of February 2017 when the FOIA Request was submitted, prisoners owed £2,250,000 in unpaid compensation for damage to prison property.

Mr Leech said: “Like so much of what Chris Grayling introduced during his time as Justice Secretary its barmy, his ridiculous banning of books to prisoners, his unnecessary restrictions on temporary licence release and home detention curfew – all of which have since been reversed – this is yet another policy failure that shows this was always more about political posturing than it was about actual policy delivery.

“The solution is not to impose uncollectible compensation orders on prisoners who can’t pay in a month of Sunday’s, but to make our prisons safe, secure, decent and humane so riots do not happen and the taxpayer is not left with a repair bill that realistically they can never collect.”

A Ministry of Justice spokesman said: “It is right that prisoners should reimburse taxpayers for damage caused to prison property wherever possible.

“The National Offender Management Service (NOMS), now known as Her Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service (HMPPS), introduced the system of recovering monies from prisoners from 1 November 2013 through “damage obligation orders”.

“Following a finding of guilt on adjudication, a requirement to pay can be made for up to 100% of the damage caused, including labour costs. However the maximum must not exceed £2,000 and must never exceed the value of the damage caused.”

Birmingham Prison – ‘The Worst Prison Riot Since Strangeways

Screen Shot 2016-12-16 at 23.21.35

Authorities have regained control of one of the country’s biggest jails after trouble described as the worst since the infamous 1990 Strangeways Prison riot.

Hundreds of inmates were caught up in disorder after disturbances erupted across four wings of HMP Birmingham, lasting more than 12 hours.

Riot squads were deployed to the category B jail to restore order after reports of prisoners setting fire to stairwells, breaking a security chain and destroying paper records.

Specially-trained prison guards, known as “Tornado” squads from other parts of the country were backed up by around 25 riot police as they moved into the privately-run facility late on Friday.

Police had earlier closed the road and established a secure cordon around the main gate of the prison.

One prisoner is understood to have received a broken jaw and eye socket during the disturbances, while no prison staff were injured.

Broken windows and damaged walls were described as being left in the aftermath of the disruption, but sources said it had been “superficial”.

Mike Rolfe, national chairman of the Prison Officers Association, who last month protested over safety concerns, said more than 30 staff had left the prison in recent weeks and compared the trouble to the notorious Strangeways riot 26 years ago.

“This prison is a tough place to work, it serves a very big area, it serves a large, dangerous population of prisoners but it’s not unlike many other prisons up and down the country – ones that have very similar inmates,” he told BBC Radio Four’s The World Tonight.

“And we’ve been warning for a long time about the crisis in prisons and what we are seeing at Birmingham is not unique to Birmingham, but it certainly would seem that this is the most recent worst incident since the 1990 Strangeways riot.”

Mr Rolfe accused the Government of not funding the prison system properly and said such disturbances are becoming more frequent as a result.

The situation, in which keys giving access to residential prison areas were taken from an officer and inmates occupied some blocks and exercise facilities, will be investigated thoroughly, the Justice Secretary said.

Liz Truss said: “I want to pay tribute to the bravery and dedication of the prison officers who resolved this disturbance.

“I also want to give my thanks to West Midlands Police, who supported G4S and the Prison Service throughout the day, ambulance crews and the fire service who also provided assistance.

“This was a serious situation and a thorough investigation will now be carried out. Violence in our prisons will not be tolerated and those responsible will face the full force of the law.”

The city centre jail formerly known as Winson Green and run by G4S can hold up to 1,450 inmates, but it is understood around 260 prisoners were caught up in the incident.

Jerry Petherick, m anaging director for G4S custodial and detention, said the prisoners behind the trouble “showed a callous disregard for the safety of prisoners and staff”.

He added: “This disturbance will rightly be subject to scrutiny and we will work openly and transparently with the Ministry of Justice and other relevant authorities to understand the cause of today’s disorder.”

Former inmates at the jail where serial murderer Fred West hanged himself in 1995 have said they are not surprised at the disturbances, describing it as something that was “bound to happen”.

The latest disturbance is the third in English prisons in less than two months.

On November 6 a riot at category B Bedford Prison saw up to 200 inmates go on the rampage, flooding the jail’s gangways in chaotic scenes.

Just days earlier, on October 29, a national response unit had to be brought in to control prisoners during an incident at HMP Lewes in East Sussex.

A spokesman from the Prison Governors Association said the disturbance at the Birmingham jail “comes at a very difficult time for Noms (National Offender Management Service) on the back of recent riots and at a time when the prison estate is already bursting at the seams”.

Shadow justice secretary Richard Burgon said the disturbances at the Birmingham jail were “hugely concerning” and claimed the Justice Secretary was “failing to get this crisis under control”.

Tory chairman of the Commons Justice Committee, Robert Neill, told Channel Four News the Government had been warned by his watchdog group of MPs that a “time bomb was ticking” as prisons were in “crisis”.

When it was suggested this could be the worst prison riot in years, Mr Neill said: “Certainly looking that way, yeah, and this is a problem which has happened both in privately and publicly-run systems, so it applies across the piece.

“I think that does indicate that we have got a situation where if people are locked down 22/23 hours a day, as we have discovered, that breeds tension, that breeds violence, and, as you rightly say, we are not actually keeping prisons secure enough to stop contraband getting in.”

Labour’s shadow home secretary Diane Abbott told Channel Four News “private companies should not be involved in taking away people’s liberty. Actually, it’s clear that G4S don’t have the quality of staff to manage a crisis like this”.

Mark Leech, editor of Converse, the national newspaper for prisoners, urged people to sign the online petition for a public inquiry into the prison system.

Mr Leech said Mr Leech said: “We need a public inquiry into our prison system – something we have never had – so our prison system can be clear what is expected of it.

“At the moment we have a secretary of state who has sought to bring in a clear vision of reform, but the evidence shows that these policy decisions are fragile – we are now on our third Justice Secretary in just 18 months, each with very different approaches, and we simply cannot go on stumbling from one policy change to another.

“We need absolute clarity about exactly what it is that we expect our prison system to deliver, in terms of how it reduces crime, punishes offenders, keeps staff and prisoners safe and how it addresses the concern of victims.

“Once we have that clear vision, based on an examination of evidence, from around the world if necessary as to what works best, we then need to know exactly what that is going to cost in real terms and ensure that the prison system has those resources to pay for its delivery.

“At the moment the prison system is told it has a mission of prison reform, but we have no idea what that ‘reform’ really means, what it will cost in real terms or how its delivery is to be paid for – that’s a recipe for disaster.

“And there is nothing to say that this time next year we will not have another Justice Secretary, with completely different views to the current one, who orders another 180-degree turn in policy yet again and leaves the prison system reeling and even more confused than ever about what it is expected to do.

” Only a Public Inquiry will deliver that clarity and I urge everyone with an interest in our prisons to sign the petition.”

Mr Leech said: “You cannot run a prison system on tuppence ha’penny while expecting it to deliver reforms that cost billions – where is that money going to come from?”

The introduction of legal highs, inside our prisons has been a game-changer. Assaults on prisoners and staff are at record levels, staff assaults are running at the rate of 65 a day, every day, with suicides, murders, self-harm, escapes and riots – where will it end?

Please, sign the petition.

Four prisoners injured after riot at young offender institution

swinfen-hallFour prisoners have been injured in an incident at a young offenders prison in Staffordshire.

The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) said specially trained officers were sent in to deal with “an incident of indiscipline” at HMP & YOI Swinfen Hall near Lichfield.

The disturbance involved a single wing of the jail.

During the fracas four prisoners received minor injuries but no prison officers were hurt.

A small fire on the wing was dealt with by firefighters.

A Prison Service spokesman said: “Specially trained prison officers dealt with an incident of indiscipline at YOI Swinfen Hall on Thursday.

“The incident was resolved and the prison is operating as normal.”

Notes: Following factual information about HMP / YOI Swinfen Hall is taken from The Prisons Handbook 2015

Task of the establishment: Young adult male long-term training and adult male category C prison.
Prison status: Public
Region: West Midlands
Number held: 585
Certified normal accommodation: 604, reduced to 544 for Crown Premises Inspection Group (CPIG) work.
Operational capacity: 654, reduced to 594 for CPIG work (G wing closure)
Date of last full inspection: 2014
Brief history
Swinfen Hall opened as a borstal in 1963 and, following a short period as a youth custody centre, in
1988-89 it became a long-term closed young offender institution. Two new wings were built in 1998,
increasing the capacity to 320 places. The establishment has gone through a major expansion
programme that has increased prisoner places from 320 to 654. It takes young men aged between 18
and 25 serving 3.5 years up to and including life.
Short description of residential units
Wing Number held
A 64
B 60 – induction / first night
C 60
D 64
E 68
F 90
G 90
I 82
J 80
Care and separation unit (segregation) 17
Name of governor: Teresa Clarke
Escort contractor: GEOAmey
Health service provider: Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent Partnership NHS Trust

Learning and skills providers: Milton Keynes College
Bournville College South and City College Birmingham
Quality Transport Training N-ergy
South Staffordshire Library
Shannon Trust Reading Plan
Independent Monitoring Board chair: Jane Calloway

Purchase The Prisons Handbook 2015 here

Our powder-keg prisons: Strangeways – the lesson we failed to heed


Conditions in prisons are as bad now as they were at the time of one of Britain’s worst jail riots, a former lord chief justice has warned – and with one former prison rioter saying our ‘powder-keg prisons’ now risks Strangeways becoming the lesson we have “foolishly failed to heed”

The system is in crisis again 25 years on from the Strangeways disturbance in Manchester, according to Lord Woolf, who led the inquiry into the trouble.

He is calling for a new investigation into the state of the country’s prisons.

Lord Woolf – previously England’s most senior judge, said: “There are things that are better now than then but I fear we’ve allowed ourselves to go backwards and we’re back where we were at the time of Strangeways.

“For a time after the riot things were much better and numbers were going down. Unfortunately prisoners are again being kept in conditions that we should not tolerate, they’re a long way from home and their families can’t keep in touch with them – a whole gamut of things that need to be done and that’s why I would welcome a thorough re-look at the situation and above all trying to take prisons out of politics.”

Two people died, hundreds more were injured and much of the prison was destroyed during the Strangeways disturbance, which lasted for 25 days in April 1990.

Lord Woolf‘s report into the disturbance was seen as a watershed moment in the history of Britain’s prisons.

It set out 12 major recommendations and identified dilapidated, overcrowded and insanitary conditions as the main underlying causes of trouble.

Lord Woolf made his latest intervention on BBC Inside Out North West, which will be broadcast tonight.

He said more needs to be done to stop prisoners from turning to crime again once they are released.

“People’s re-offending behaviour has not been tackled,” he said.

“There is all sorts of talk of doing so but in practice it doesn’t happen. Apart from a very small minority, everyone who is in prison is going to come out one day and we should make sure that when they come out they can be properly turned away from crime and can be properly habilitated.

“What is needed is someone who’s younger and more energetic to do another review of the prisons and take the prison situation out of politics.

“You have to look at the problem holistically and that’s what I don’t think we’re doing and not making the matter a political football. The main political parties want to show the public they’re tough on crime because they believe that’s what the public wants.

“I believe that the public want to feel safer and I don’t think they would want to take steps to be tough on crime if it made them even more vulnerable to crime and that is the difficulty and that’s where unfortunately I’m afraid I didn’t win the argument.”

Last week a parliamentary report warned that Government cuts and reforms to the prisons system in England and Wales have made a “significant contribution” to a deterioration in safety over the last two years.

Following a year-long inquiry, the cross-party House of Commons Justice Committee voiced “grave concern” over increases in assaults on staff and inmates, suicides, self-harm and indiscipline in prisons between 2012 and 2014.

In November 2014, the prison population in England and Wales stood at 85,925 – close to the record – and the system had one of the highest incarceration levels in Europe, at 149 per 100,000 people, said the report.

Prisons Minister Andrew Selous said: “This Government has considerably increased the adult male prison capacity from the level inherited at the end of the last parliament.

“All prisons have safe population levels and published statistics show that crowding is at its lowest levels since 2007/08.

“Staffing levels were agreed with both prison governors and the unions at the outset, and prison officers have done an excellent job during a period when the prison population has unpredictably risen.

“Furthermore, we are absolutely clear that all offenders are expected to engage in purposeful activity to help them find a job on release and turn their backs on crime for good.

“The total number of hours worked in prisons has increased from 10.6 million to 14.2 million in the past four years.”

Mark Leech, editor of the acclaimed Prisons Handbook, and Converse the national prisons newspaper, and himself a former prison rioter, welcomed the comments of Lord Woolf.

Mr Leech said: “Next week marks the 25th anniversary of the Strangeways riot, when dozens of angry young men took to the roofs of prisons around this country and raised anguished voices in guttural cries of despair at the conditions in which they were forced to live.

“No-one likes to be seen to be talking up unrest inside our jails, and certainly not me, but the vast numbers of respected voices of concern raised about powder-keg conditions inside our prisons can no longer be ignored; we cannot afford to allow Strangeways to become the lesson we have tragically failed to heed.”

High Down ‘Mutineers’ in the dock

Highdown Prison
Highdown Prison

Eleven men standing trial for mutiny at High Down prison felt “banged-up like kippers” as a result of austerity measures introduced by the Government last year.

The young men, who were all inmates at the Banstead prison last October, sat together in the dock at Blackfriars Crown Court today.

They are charged with taking part in a prison mutiny and causing criminal damage on October 21 and 22 last year.

They stand accused of “engaging in conduct intended to further a common purpose of overthrowing lawful authority at High Down prison”.
All 11 pleaded not guilty to all of the alleged offences.

In his opening statement to the jury, Mark Seymour, prosecuting, said a mutiny began at 5.30pm on October 21 last year when a group of prisoners, including the defendants, refused to return to their cells when instructed to do so by a prison officer.

Mr Seymour said: “Officer Williams said ‘they were saying f***off, we want our association, we are not going behind our doors’.”

The court heard how the defendants then moved to the landing above and filed into a cell on that floor, B317, before barricading the door with a bunk bed and other furniture.

Mr Seymour said: “There was a demand note under the door.

“It read: ‘The reason for these capers is we are not getting enough food, exercise, showers or gym and we want to see the governor lively’ and that they were ‘not getting any association and banged up like kippers’.”

The jury of five women and seven men heard how the prisoners stayed in the cell for the next seven-and-a-half hours.

Mr Seymour said: “It was not a peaceful protest in any shape or form.

“The cell was totally trashed. The furniture in the cell was totally destroyed through to the sink which had been smashed off the wall leaving shards of porcelain everywhere.”

The court was told that the defendants made claims of having a gun, made reference to a hostage being taken and that there were threats of a ‘dirty protest’.

The prisoners were also allegedly setting fire to items inside the cell and washing-up liquid was seeping from underneath the cell door.

The jury heard how two negotiators were apparently spat on during the incident and that one of the defendants said: “he was pissed-off as they were being treated like animals”.

The barrister added: “He wasn’t happy with the lack of showers. He said he had tried to complain but wasn’t being listened to and the protest was to get the governor’s attention.”

Mr Seymour said that when 40 specialist officers arrived at the cell in riot gear, including a team known as the Tornadoes, at 12.45am, they opened the door and “the prisoners didn’t come quietly”.

He told the court: “When officers removed the door to the cell there was an attack on the officers with homemade weapons.

“They [the defendants] succeeded in secluding and overthrowing lawful authority in the prison at the time.”

The barrister said the prisoners were given the opportunity to surrender on several occasions, but they refused.

He said the prisoners did not want to speak to the custodial manager, who made contact through the cell’s observation hatch, and that she was told: ‘We don’t want to speak to the monkey, we want to speak to the organ grinder’.

Mr Seymour said Peter Gafney and Martin Prince, who were considered the group’s ringleaders, also made three demands – to see the governor, “to get some burn [cigarettes]” and to go to the gym.

The barrister said that an authorised phone call made half-an-hour before the incident begun, by Mr Rowe, indicated that the alleged mutiny was pre-planned.

Mr Seymour said: “During the course of the conversation, Mr Rowe made reference to ‘a little madness was due to happen soon’ and that the prison system was violating his rights.”

He said other prisoners started “acting up” inside High Down, mirroring what was going on inside cell B317.

opened in 1992, High Down is a category B local prison for men which mainly houses defendants awaiting trial or directly after conviction, who do not require maximum security but are still deemed to be a danger to the public.

Providing the jury with background to the alleged mutiny, Mr Seymour said: “During 2013 a scheme known as New Ways of Working was introduced in the prison driven by prison service management in line with Government austerity measures and was a requirement for all prisons in the UK.

“It came into effect on 1 September 2013, some six weeks before the incident.

“The purpose was to make High Down prison more efficient from a government perspective, a significant reduction in the number of staff and a more restrictive regime for prisoners.

“There were fewer staff to carry out day-to-day activities.

“Staff shortages and a revised timetable led to changes in the core daily timetable and meant prisoners were locked up for longer periods during the day.

“There had been complaints about this from prisoners. It’s clear there was a degree of adaptation taking place in the prison.”

The defendants are Martin Prince, Cory Stewart, Peter Gafney, Oshane Gayle, Callum Hollingsworth, Sam Davies, Anuar Niyongaba, Jordan Rowe, Charlie Dempster, Nathaniel Johnson and Nicholas Carlton.

Two of them were absent at today’s proceedings. Of the remaining defendants, some are in still custody, while two are on bail.

The trial, being heard before Judge Blacksell QC and expected to last three to four weeks, continues.

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.

Jail Riot Squad Call Out On The Increase


Prison riot squads were called out to calm tensions in prisons almost four times every week on average last year prompting warnings that jails have become “dens of violence”.

The National Tactical Response Group (NTRG) was called out to deal with 203 separate prisoner disturbances in 2013, a 57% rise on the previous year (129), Justice Minister Jeremy Wright has revealed.

The number of callouts of the NTRG, the specialist response group for serious incidents in prisons, has increased by 72% from 118 incidents in 2010 when the coalition was elected to last year’s figure.

Shadow justice secretary Sadiq Khan blamed the Government for cutting prison workers while jails become more overcrowded, creating rising fears of attacks on staff.

At the start of the month the prison population stood at 85,469, with just 441 spaces left in the whole system.

This means prisons are now running at 99.5% of capacity, beyond the 99% level when the Government is meant to implement the “emergency footing” for prisons known as Operation Safeguard, according to the Labour frontbencher.

Mr Khan, who uncovered the figures using a parliamentary question, said: “In the space of a year, our jails have become much more dangerous places for staff and prisoners. These figures are a further sign of the Government’s failure and lay bare the mess in our prisons on (Justice Secretary)Chris Grayling’s watch.

“This Government promised us a rehabilitation revolution. Instead, violence has risen by nearly three quarters since 2010. Prisoners are going up and prison staff down.

“Jails are more overcrowded than ever, and instead of prisoners putting their time to good use working, undertaking training and education they’re idling away in their cells or on prison landings.

“Prisons are about reforming criminals as well as punishing them. If our jails are dens of violence there is no chance of any rehabilitation.”

Young offenders institute Hindley prison had the most callouts with ten, closely followed by HMP Lindholme and HMP Woodhill, which houses some of Britain’s most dangerous criminals.

Mr Wright said the riot squad was only called out to half of Britain’s prisons (51%) in the last year and were mainly dealing with “minor incidents” such as prisoner protests.

He said there was no rise in the number of serious incidents attended.

In his response to Mr Khan, the minister wrote: “NTRG staff have been called to attend incidents at only 51% of establishments in the past year.

“There has been a rise in the number of callouts during 2013. This is mainly due to minor incidents such as prisoners protesting by climbing on to the netting between landings.

“NTRG staff have the specialist skills required to deal with such incidents which accounted for 67% of all the callouts during 2013, and they are frequently called to attend as a precautionary measure.

“Not all callouts result in engagement by NTRG staff, with a number of situations being resolved locally.

“Of all the incidents attended during 2013, 74% were resolved by surrender.

“There has been no rise in the number of serious incidents being attended.”

The Howard League for Penal Reform said the rise in riot squad callouts was a direct consequence of Government budget cuts.

Andrew Neilson, its director of campaigns said serious unrest could be on the horizon.

He said: “These worrying figures are a direct consequence of the dangerous way the Ministry of Justice has cut prison budgets in response to the austerity drive within government.

“Rather than looking at the fact the prison population has doubled over the past 20 years and finding community sentences for the large number of people imprisoned needlessly, ministers took the gamble of slashing prison budgets by cutting back on staff, safety, security and useful things for prisoners to do.

“This policy has made our prisons increasingly dangerous places to live and work, with the potential for serious unrest on the horizon. If things go wrong, it will only lead to more crime, an increased risk to the public and a vast amount of taxpayers’ money wasted.”

Prisons Minister Mr Wright said: “We are reforming and modernising the prison estate to ensure best value for the taxpayer but are committed to maintaining safe prisons with appropriate staffing levels in order to deliver effective rehabilitation.

“Specialist trained staff have been called to an increase in minor incidents, but there is no rise in serious incidents. These staff are not riot squads.”

Here is a full list in alphabetical order of the prisons the National Tactical Response Group was called out to in 2013, followed by the number of callouts for each jail, as provided by Justice Minister Jeremy Wright in response to a parliamentary question from shadow justice secretary Sadiq Khan:

Altcourse 3

Aylesbury 5

Camp Hill 1

Cardiff 1

Channings Wood 1

Coldingley 2

Cookham Wood 2

Deerbolt 1

Doncaster 3

Dorchester 1

Dovegate 2

Dover 1

Elmley 1

Erlestoke 1

Everthorpe 3

Featherstone 5

Feltham 3

Full Sutton 1

Garth 1

Gartree 1

Glen Parva 3

Guys Marsh 3

Haverigg 3

Hewell 3

Highdown 4

Highpoint 2

Hindley 10

Holme House 1

Hull 4

Isis 2

Lancaster Farms 1

Leeds 2

Leicester 2

Lewes 2

Lincoln 4

Lindholme 9

Littlehey 1

Liverpool 2

Long Lartin 7

Lowdham Grange 6

Maidstone 1

Moorland 5

Morton Hall 1

Northumberland 4

Norwich 1

Nottingham 3

Oakwood 4

Onley 3

Parc 1

Pentonville 2

Peterborough 1

Preston 1

Ranby 3

Risley 2

Rochester 1

Rye Hill 7

Stafford 4

Stocken 5

Stoke Heath 1

Styal 1

Swaleside 2

Swinfen Hall 7

Wandsworth 2

Wayland 1

Wealstun 2

Werrington 5

Wetherby 7

Winchester 4

Wolds 1

Woodhill 9

Wormwood Scrubs 1

Wymott 1

‘Tornado’ Prison Officers Allege Oakwood Riot Cover-up


Britain’s biggest privately-run jail downplayed a ‘full scale riot’ which saw inmates take over an entire wing and booby-trap the doorways, a prison officer has claimed – causing one commentator to say that if true G4S should lose all their prison contracts.

Prisoners were in a nine-hour stand-off with guards earlier this month at the £150 million HMP Oakwood near Wolverhampton, run by G4S and nicknamed ‘Jokewood’ for its alleged lax security.

But while the firm insisted just ’15 to 20′ were involved, an officer who dealt with the incident has said it was a ‘full-scale riot’ with many more.

Speaking to the BBC, the specially-trained officer said he was part of a ‘tornado team’ drafted in to tackle the prisoners.

The anonymous man told Hannah Barnes of The Report, to be aired tonight on BBC Radio 4: ‘Our briefing was that the prisoners were armed and dangerous and that it was a very large number of prisoners and they had completely taken over an entire wing of the prison.

They’d interfered with locks to try and prevent staff getting into the wing and they were destroying everything they could get their hands on. I did hear prisoners shouting threats, saying, “We’re ready for you, come on – we’re gonna get you” and words to that effect.”

He said debris and iron bars had been thrown to the floor in Cedar Wing and tripwires had been strung up at neck, chest and leg height.

He added: ‘I would sum it up as a full-scale prison riot and we were very lucky that it only took place on one unit and didn’t spread.’

G4S has firmly denied the allegations.

Another officer, who also remained anonymous, told the BBC staffing at the prison was so low it put suicidal inmates at risk – and sometimes suicide watch records were falsified due to a lack of time.

G4S told the BBC any allegation of falsified records would be fully investigated.

One of Britain’s largest with 1,600 inmates, Oakwood Prison was described as a model for future prisons by the government yet has been beset by controversy.

In October inspectors gave it the lowest possible rating – quoting one prisoner who said drugs were easier to get hold of than basics like soap.

Staff were passive and ‘compliant almost to the point of complicity’, they said, and they found hard core pornography on cell walls despite the jail holding some 300 sex offenders.

Responding to the prison officer’s claims, a G4S spokesman told the BBC the incident was still under investigation but it was a case of ‘concerted indiscipline’ confined to one wing, and the jail is improving.

‘The incident was brought under control just after 2am without injury to any prison officers, although one prisoner has been treated for minor injuries.

‘Reports of prison staff being taken hostage are completely untrue. The safety of our personnel and those prisoners in our care is our top priority, and we are grateful to our colleagues who were able to help us bring the incident to a close safely, and effectively.

‘Established incident procedures were followed correctly and worked as they were meant to.

‘An investigation has now commenced into the reasons for this disruption, as well as a criminal investigation.’

Speaking to the Today programme, Jerry Petherick, managing director for custodial and detention services at G4S, said it was more difficult because Oakwood was being treated as a test case by politicians and the public.

He said: ‘I think it would be useful for people to acknowledge the very good work my staff are doing at Oakwood.

‘There was an instance of concerted indiscipline that was dealt with. For a period of time that wing was occupied by prisoners. It was a number of hours as we accumulated the necessary resources to contain the incident.

‘I would like to see Oakwood come out of the media spotlight to give people the opportunity to develop the work. If you’re operating in the media spotlight everything becomes magnified.’

Mark Leech editor of Converse the national newspaper for prisoners in England and Wales said if the cover up claims proved to be true it was time for G4S to lose its prison contracts.

Mr Leech said: “I absolutely get why Jerry Petherick wants to see Oakwood come out of the spotlight, G4S has shareholders for whom this constant criticism must be deeply concerning coming as it does on top of the tagging fraud scandal, devastating criticism of Oakwood from the Chief Inspector of prisons, not to mention the Olympics debacle – the solution however is not to blame the media, but for G4S to get a grip on the prison’s management.

“Tornado teams sent to Oakwood to qwell the riot would have been fully briefed on what was known based on what incident commanders on the ground were reporting – that briefing now needs to be published.

“If the cover-up claims prove to be true G4S should lose its prisons contracts – it would be a dishonesty that simply could not be overolooked nor tolerated.”

Reports at the time claimed up to 40 inmates had taken two guards hostage during the riot – before demanding McDonald’s meals were brought to their cells.

Yet G4S and the Ministry of Justice dismissed these claims as ‘completely untrue’.

A joint statement read: ‘The disruption, which was confined to one wing of the Category C prison for male prisoners, began just after 5pm on [January 5] as prisoners were out of their cells on association, and involved around 15-20 prisoners, who threatened officers and caused damage to cells and prison property.

‘A number of prisoners returned to their cells voluntarily. The Ministry of Justice was informed immediately, and standard procedures were initiated to deal with the incident, with rapid response teams deployed. Staffordshire Police were also informed.

‘Owing to damage caused to cells, a number of prisoners were moved to other wings and to other prisons in the area.

Oakwood Incident Resolved


An incident lasting more than five hours at the country’s largest prison has been resolved, security firm G4S has said.
The trouble broke out on a wing at HMP Oakwood in Featherstone, near Wolverhampton, yesterday evening, but the operator of the privately-run prison would not give any further details.
The incident was contained by staff before being resolved shortly after 2am.
HMP Oakwood, which houses more than 1,600 category C prisoners, was the scene of a number of rooftop protests last year and was slammed by inspectors during a surprise visit.
A G4S spokesman said: “This incident was resolved successfully at 2.10am.
“Police and internal investigations will now take place.”
It would be inappropriate to comment further until these have been completed.”
The spokesman said earlier the company was applying standard procedures to manage the incident.
A spokesman for Staffordshire Police said the force was offering support and assistance to G4S.
The prison – the largest in England and Wales – opened in April 2012 as a training prison next to the existing HMP Featherstone and HMP Brinsford near Wolverhampton.
In a report published in October, HM Inspectorate of Prisons (HMIP) reported inexperienced staff and high levels of violence and self-harm at the jail – dubbed ”Jokewood” by prisoners.
Chief Inspector of Prisons Nick Hardwick warned here were ”real risks if matters were allowed to drift” at the prison.
At the time G4S said improvements were being made but admitted launching the prison was a “complex and challenging operation”.
G4S – well-known for its botched handling of its Olympics security contract – has been under review by the government following revelations it overcharged for criminal-tagging contracts.
The government has since announced that electronic monitoring will handed to another firm on an interim basis at the end of the financial year.ends