Monitors highlight ‘indecent conditions’ at Wormwood Scrubs – one of ’10 Prison Project’ jails

A prisoner spent more than a week in a cell with no window during winter, according to a watchdog report.

Inmates and staff were living and working in “indecent and unacceptable” conditions at HMP Wormwood Scrubs, the Independent Monitoring Board for the west London jail found.

The board’s annual report covering the 12 months to the end of May 2018 said the physical environment at the prison remained “unacceptably poor” in many residential areas.

It said: “It is not right that a modern-day prison should have rat infestations in its grounds, unheated cells with broken windows, or insufficient access to water.”

Over the course of the year, the IMB said it found “unacceptable” temperatures at the prison, showers that were either cold or scalding hot, and staff using heaters to stay warm.

There were rat infestations in external areas, and one wing lost network access for several days after rodents chewed through cabling.

A prisoner had spent more than a week in a cell with no water supply and no window during a cold winter, the IMB said.

It added: “By the end of December, there were multiple problems with the boilers and half the prison had been unheated for six weeks, including cells that had no window and were open to the elements.”

The report also said a prisoner had been released early because of a “serious” error in calculating his release date. He was later returned to custody.

Built between 1875 and 1891, Wormwood Scrubs had a population of 1,106 at the end of March.

A Prison Service spokeswoman said: “Wormwood Scrubs, like other Victorian prisons, faces challenges around living conditions and maintenance.

“As part of our 10 prisons project it is receiving extra investment and support, and since the reporting period new secure windows have been installed and refurbishment of the wings is ongoing.”

The spokeswoman added: “Releases in error are very rare but we take them extremely seriously and work with the police to bring offenders back into custody quickly.”

Mark Leech, Editor of The Prisons Handbook,  writes:

The Independent Monitoring Board (IMB) at HMP Wormwood Scrubs have highlighted what they call  ‘indecent conditions’ at the prison – rats, vermin, broken windows, no heating or water in cells and prisoner released in error – and this is one of the ‘10 Prisons Project’ jails.
While this is serious – what is risible is that it’s taken a full year after the end of the reporting period for this report to see the light of day.
Why?
The IMB claim to be an independent body, the clue is right there in their name, but no independent body worthy of the name would behave like this – no wonder a previous IMB Chair at Wormwood Scrubs walked out in disgust.
This report is of historical value only – much like the entire IMB organisation itself.

The IMB should agree a protocol with publication one month after submission to the MOJ – the public should not be forced to wait a year to find out what on earth is going on.

Read The Report

New Unit to Target Prison Corruption

Prison staff who smuggle drugs into jails or have affairs with inmates will be targeted in a new anti-corruption drive.

Ministers have established a specialist unit to root out activity that causes “chaos” and violence behind bars.

The taskforce, which began work earlier this month, aims to “proactively pursue” those suspected of corruption in prison and probation services in England and Wales.

Justice Secretary David Gauke said: “Our prison staff are overwhelmingly dedicated and honest and do their best to instil safety and order in our jails.

“We have seen from recent criminal prosecutions, however, that a small minority continue to engage in corrupt behaviour in our prisons – damaging both the integrity of the system and their profession.

“This unit underlines our determination to stamp out criminality in prison in all its forms and will make sure we are closing the net on the individuals driving this, allowing the focus to be on safety and rehabilitation and ultimately keeping the public safer.”

The Counter Corruption Unit is comprised of 29 personnel, including expert intelligence analysts, split into a national team and five regional teams.

Officials emphasised that the taskforce will serve to protect the vast majority of prison and probation staff who are honest and hard-working.

It will take action to “counter the chaos and violence caused by the few who smuggle illicit items into our jails or impede our ability to supervise offenders in the community effectively”, the Ministry of Justice said.

Potential examples of corruption the teams could investigate include cases where staff have inappropriate relationships with prisoners or bring in drugs and other banned items for individual inmates or crime gangs.

The taskforce will work with law enforcement agencies to investigate and disrupt criminality and bring more prosecutions against those “causing harm” behind bars, the MoJ said.

The unit has been set four main aims – to protect against corruption by building an “open and resilient organisation”; prevent people from engaging in corrupt activity, strengthening professional integrity; to pursue and punish those involved in corruption; and to prepare prisons to minimise the impact of corruption when it occurs.

Police will also join the effort as authorities attempt to stop “criminal kingpins” using corruption to continue their illegal activity from their jail cells.

It is the latest in a series of moves designed to help stabilise the prison system after much of the estate was hit by surging levels of violence, drug use and self-harm.

Stopping the flow of contraband into jails is seen as a key plank of efforts to tackle the safety crisis.

In 2017/18, there were 13,119 incidents where drugs were found in prisons in England and Wales – an increase of 23% compared with the previous 12 months.

Mobile phone finds also went up, by 15%, to 10,643.

In January, a senior police officer told the BBC he “strongly suspects” gangs are getting their associates or family members jobs in the prison service with the intention of smuggling contraband in, although it was difficult to prove.

Appearing at the House of Lords Constitution Committee earlier this week, Mr Gauke emphasised the need to stop inexperienced officers being manipulated and entrapped by “sophisticated” criminal gangs.

Mark Leech, Editor of The Prisons Handbook,  writes:

The reality is that our prison system today helps manufacture its own corruption, the new Offender Management in Custody – OMiC – model being introduced now and fully operational by September is a double-edged sword.

On one hand it ensures prison officers now fully interact with prisoners in key worker roles, which is welcome and necessary, but equally with lots of inexperienced staff that interaction can lead to the professional line being crossed almost imperceptibly and that is the danger area.

Prison staff must remain alert, must know where that line is at all times, and have the skills to recognise when they are approaching it in their relationships with prisoners, and possess the ability to do something about it.

If they don’t then the chances are at some point the CCU will catch up with them and they’ll find they’re quickly on the wrong side of the cell door themselves.

Personally I would like to see an Amnesty for prison officers involved in corruption, they represent an intelligence goldmine. That said, although it makes a lot of sense my information is that, politically, its unsellable.

That is a shame, if Ministers had more courage to implement an amnesty it would provide the CCU with a store of real-time intelligence and allow for the retention of staff who were likely caught up in corruption due to their inexperience and interaction with highly sophisticated criminals.

[View: Prison Corruption Tables 2013-2018/]

[See: New Counter Corruption Unit]

MINISTRY OF JUSTICE PRISON CORRUPTION TABLES 2013-2018

Source: MOJ, London, Issued: May 2019

Table 1) The total number of prison staff investigated for misconduct by year, since 2014, broken down by type of misconduct
Table 2) The total number of prison staff dismissed for misconduct by year, since 2014, broken down by type of misconduct
Table 3) The total number of prison staff dismissed for inappropriate relationship with a prisoner / ex-prisoner broken down by gender of prison officer
Table 1:
Prison staff who were subject to investigations by allegation,  2013/14 to 2017/18
2013/14 2014/15 2015/16 2016/17 2017/18
Abuse of Sick Leave 49 54 20 16 18
Abusive Language / Behaviour towards prisoners 73 41 35 40 43
Abusive Language / Behaviour towards staff 95 64 91 79 47
Abusive Language / Behaviour towards the public / visitors 5 6 12 9 6
Action or negligence which caused / contributes to the loss, damage or injury to the Prison Service / individuals 73 56 43 44 42
Asleep on duty 16 19 23 21 27
Assault / unnecessary use of force on a prisoner 171 109 164 156 118
Assault on staff 19 10 12 20 8
Assault on the public / visitor 13 10 ~ 9 6
Breach of flexible working procedures 12 8 7 4 ~
Breach of security 508 446 449 461 406
Bringing discredit on the Prison Service 95 94 65 77 90
Bullying / Harassment 91 94 88 64 67
Corruption 7 9 6 14 11
Criminal Conviction 33 23 23 20 17
Exploitation of working relationships 9 5 12 4 7
Failure to obey a lawful and reasonable order or written instruction 116 156 92 101 61
Failure to report misconduct by others 22 36 8 12 9
Financial affairs 3 5 6 ~ ~
Fraud 50 35 44 52 19
Inappropriate relationship with a prisoner / ex-prisoner 36 34 35 38 31
Inappropriate relationship with a prisoners visitor ~ ~ ~ 4 ~
Making / Prompting false statements 71 51 58 53 37
Membership of a racist organisation ~ ~ ~ ~ 0
Misuse of IT 27 29 19 19 15
Negligence likely to endanger the security of an establishment / escape of a prisoner 61 74 69 56 27
Performance of duties 398 367 407 342 398
Police caution 15 9 9 9 11
Poor timekeeping 3 4 8 6 3
Racial harassment 17 30 17 14 9
Sexual harassment / assault 34 14 30 23 29
Theft / Fraud 20 24 25 11 13
Trafficking 14 7 17 15 18
Unauthorised absence ( AWOL) or lateness 66 69 47 50 18
Unauthorised disclosure of official information 22 19 12 11 10
Undefined 4 ~ 3 ~ ~
Undertaking secondary employment without permission 16 10 9 6 7
Unfit for duty through drink / drugs 10 9 11 14 7
Unprofessional conduct 328 313 346 322 264
Total2  2,605  2,344  2,326  2,199  1,902
Total if each member of staff only counted once2  1,512  1,362  1,368  1,288  1,067
Prison Staff relates to anyone working in HM Prison Service or the Youth Custody Service (YCS). Therefore it excludes anyone working in HQ or National Probation Service.
Staff subject to at least one investigation that was concluded during the year. If an individual had multiple charges then they will be counted multiple times, one for each charge. Therefore the total if each member of staff is only counted once is included as well at the bottom of the table
~ denotes suppressed values of 2 or fewer or other values which would allow values of 2 or fewer to be derived by subtraction. Low numbers are suppressed to prevent disclosure in accordance with the Data Protection Act, 2018.
Table 2: Prison staff dismissed after conduct and discipline action by charge type, for years 2013/14 to 2017/18
2013/14 2014/15 2015/16 2016/17 2017/18
Abuse of Sick Leave 5 6 3 ~ ~
Abusive Language / Behaviour towards prisoners 5 5 4 3 ~
Abusive Language / Behaviour towards staff 9 3 ~ ~ 7
Abusive Language / Behaviour towards the public / visitors ~ ~ ~ 0 ~
Asleep on Duty ~ ~ 4 5 7
Assault / unnecessary use of force on a prisoner 13 13 11 16 15
Assault on Staff 0 ~ ~ ~ ~
Assault on the Public/ Visitor ~ 0 0 ~ ~
Breach of flexible working procedures 0 ~ ~ ~ ~
Breach of security 21 12 13 20 18
Bringing discredit on HMPPS 11 9 14 17 23
Bullying/Harassment 5 ~ 3 3 4
Corruption 3 0 0 ~ ~
Criminal Conviction 14 17 15 11 6
Exploitation of Working relationships ~ 0 3 0 0
Fail to report misconduct by others 3 ~ ~ ~ ~
Failure to follow order/instruction ~ 8 6 6 ~
Financial Affairs ~ ~ ~ ~ 0
Fraud 6 8 8 6 4
Inappropriate relationship with a prisoner / ex-prisoner 11 9 9 3 7
Inappropriate relationship with a prisoner Visitor 0 0 0 ~ ~
Making/Promoting False Statements 6 6 8 3 5
Membership of a racist organisation ~ 0 0 0 0
Misuse of IT 3 ~ 0 0 ~
Negligence – Loss/Damage to HMPPS/Individual 3 ~ ~ 0 ~
Negligence – Security est./escape of Prisoner ~ ~ 3 ~ 0
Performance of Duties 17 8 12 16 17
Police Caution ~ ~ ~ 5 ~
Poor Time Keeping 0 0 ~ 3 0
Racial Harassment 3 ~ ~ ~ 0
Sexual Harassment/assault 7 3 ~ 3 6
Theft 3 3 5 0 0
Trafficking 5 0 4 5 5
Unauthorised absence (AWOL) or Lateness 7 8 4 5 0
Unauthorised disclosure of information ~ ~ 5 ~ 0
Undertaking secondary employment W/O Permission 0 ~ ~ 0 0
Unfit for Duty through Drink/Drugs ~ ~ ~ 5 0
unknown 0 0 0 0 ~
Unprofessional Conduct 34 32 28 22 50
Total4  208  170  181  176  196
Total if each member of staff only counted once4  129  107  113  105  113
Prison Staff relates to anyone working in HM Prison Service or the Youth Custody Service (YCS). Therefore it excludes anyone working in HQ or National Probation Service.
Information on the outcomes of any appeal is not included.
Conduct and discipline cases are defined as where a penalty has been imposed on a member of HMPPS staff for a reason of conduct
Staff subject to at least one conduct and discipline that was concluded during the year. If an individual had multiple charges then they will be counted multiple times, one for each charge.Therefore the total if each member of staff is only counted once is included as well at the bottom of the table
~ denotes suppressed values of 2 or fewer or other values which would allow values of 2 or fewer to be derived by subtraction. Low numbers are suppressed to prevent disclosure in accordance with the Data Protection Act, 2018.
Table 3: Prison staff dismissed for inappropriate relationship with a prisoner / ex-prisoner broken down by gender of prison staff member, for years 2013/14 to 2017/18
2013/14 2014/15 2015/16 2016/17 2017/18
Male 6 5 ~ 0 3
Female 5 4 ~ 3 4
Prison Staff relates to anyone working in HM Prison Service or the Youth Custody Service (YCS). Therefore it will not relate to anyone working in HQ or National Probation Service.
Information on the outcomes of any appeal is not included.
~ denotes suppressed values of 2 or fewer or other values which would allow values of 2 or fewer to be derived by subtraction. Low numbers are suppressed to prevent disclosure in accordance with the Data Protection Act, 2018.

Five questioned after police officer acquitted of rape charge

Five people have been questioned in relation to perverting the course of justice following the collapse of a trial of a police sergeant accused of rape and other offences.

Former Durham officer Mohammed Perwaze, 46, was acquitted of 20 charges in October last year, including 18 relating to the alleged abuse of the same girl.

The collapse of the case was not reported at the time due to a reporting restriction.

Mr Perwaze, of Barnard Castle, Co. Durham, has always protested his innocence and says he is the victim of malicious allegations.

He went on trial last year at Sheffield Crown Court, but prosecutors later offered no evidence against him.

Judge Jeremy Richardson QC instructed him to be cleared of all charges, including ones alleging he was violent towards two young boys.

Immediately after he was acquitted, Mr Perwaze issued a statement thanking his legal team and said: “I was absolutely delighted that at last the CPS (Crown Prosecution Service) offered no evidence against me and that I was finally exonerated.”

On Monday, he told the Press Association: “I have always been completely innocent and the allegations made against me were intentionally malicious.

“I did state this to police during my initial police interview. I have lost so much as a result of this, the impact this has had and is continuing to have is devastating for me and my family.

“I will continue to seek justice and will not stop until those responsible are held to account for their crimes against me.”

In a statement, Durham Constabulary said: “An investigation was launched by Durham Constabulary in October into issues which arose during the trial.

“Five people – three women and two men – have been interviewed under caution in relation to offences of attempting to pervert the course of justice and fraud offences. Enquiries are ongoing.”

The force said that the allegations faced by Mr Perwaze were not related to his duties as a police officer.

A spokeswoman said he was dismissed by Durham Constabulary for gross misconduct on unrelated matters.

Rape Crime Disclosure: Latest

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has attacked moves to get rape victims to hand mobile phones to the police or risk prosecutions against their attackers not going ahead.

Mr Corbyn tweeted: “We need to do all we can to support victims of sexual violence to come forward and report cases to the police. With rape and sexual assaults already under-reported, this disturbing move risks letting more rapists get away with it.”

Change UK MP Anna Soubry has called for the withdrawal of a new document requesting victims, including those of rape, to hand over their mobile phones and other digital devices to the police.

Asking an urgent question on the issue in the Commons, Ms Soubry (Broxtowe) warned “it is going to deter victims of rape in particular from coming forward”.

She said: “It’s the way that you deal with these requests that’s critical, what you don’t do is issue a blanket demand for the handover of mobile phones and other digital devices, and then threaten to discontinue cases if a victim, especially a rape victim, then refuses to hand over those devices.”

She added: “Will he withdraw this document because it is going to deter victims of rape in particular from coming forward? Would he ensure that there is no blanket request to rape victims, or indeed any other victim, to hand over phones and other digital devices.”

Policing minister Nick Hurd’s own mobile sounded as he stood up to respond at the despatch box, prompting MPs to laugh as he joked: “Not now mother.”

On the wording, Mr Hurd said: “Now I’ve discussed this with the police, they see that as an actually reasonable statement of fact, but the language used in this is sensitive and (I’m) open to discussing with the police and others about how that may be improved.”

Police forces, he said, had been using forms to request victims’ consent to review mobile phones in investigations including sexual assault cases for some time.

He said: “What is new is a new national form that was introduced today which attempts to distil current best practice to replace the individual versions of the 43 forces, ensuring that there is consistency and clarity for complainants, that is the intention of the police.”

He said: “It is surely critical that victims are not deterred from seeking justice by a perception about how their personal information is handled, they can and should expect nothing less than it will be dealt with in a way that is consistent with both their right to privacy and with the interests of justice.”

He added: “The police have acknowledged that the use of personal data in criminal investigations is a source of anxiety and will continue to work with victim groups and the Information Commissioner’s Office to ensure that their approach to this issue offers the necessary, if difficult, balance between the requirement for reasonable lines of inquiry and the victims’ right to privacy.”

He added: “We will take a strong interest in this impact assessment of this document, it is not a blanket request.”

Governor of Guantanamo – Sacked

The commander of the task force that runs Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba has been sacked over a “loss of confidence in his ability to command”, US military officials said.

Navy Rear Admiral John Ring was relieved of his duties at the US Naval Station on Saturday, with the facility’s deputy commander, Army Brig Gen John Hussey, being designated acting commander.

The senior officer of US Southern Command, Navy Admiral Craig Faller, relieved Rear Admiral Ring of his duties.

A statement from the task force said the change in leadership “will not interrupt the safe, humane, legal care and custody provided to the detainee population at GTMO”.

About 40 prisoners are being held at the facility. At its peak, in mid-2003, it held nearly 700.

Probation Service missed opportunities over man murdered by Lifer on Licence – Coroner

There were “missed opportunities” to prevent the death of a property developer who was murdered by a convicted killer after he had been released from prison on licence, a coroner has ruled.

John Gogarty, 65, was stabbed 69 times in his home in Wombwell, Barnsley, in July 2015 by Ian Birley and his partner Helen Nichols so they could steal cash to settle a £500 drugs debt, an inquest in Sheffield heard.

Birley was being monitored on licence following his release from prison in December 2013 after serving 18 years of a life sentence for killing another pensioner in what a coroner called “a similarly violent murder”.

Senior coroner Chris Dorries said that the way the Probation Service dealt with Birley’s breaches of his licence conditions in May 2014 “amounted to a missed opportunity to safeguard against a deterioration into the further offending which led to Mr Gogarty’s death”.

Mr Dorries said he had heard a range of opinions about whether Birley should have been recalled to prison in the light of these breaches, which related to two positive tests for methadone, refusals relating to urine testing and failure to attend a drug agency.

The coroner said: “Returning Offender One (Birley) into custody would not have been an absolute guarantee against the harm that eventually befell Mr Gogarty.

“It is possible that the offender would have been paroled again and that, sooner or later, he would have considered an attack upon Mr Gogarty as a source of funding for any drug debt that he accrued.

“But I consider it plain at least that Mr Gogarty would not have died when he did if Offender One had been recalled to prison in May 2014.”

He said: “Whilst a decision on recall was subject to careful discussion by appropriate persons, the events of May 2014 as a whole amounted to a missed opportunity to take action which would, more likely than not, have safeguarded Mr Gogarty from an attack the following year.”

Mr Dorries said Birley had already been issued with one final warning but he was given another in May 2014.

The coroner said that issuing the first final warning was “a moderately serious error” as he said: “If a final warning was given a second time, it would lead the offender into believing that nothing would happen when a further breach was committed.

“In effect, it would possibly give the offender cause to believe that he could ‘game the system’ without significant risk of recall.”

The inquest was told how Birley had previously killed a man called Maurice Hoyle in 1995 and had been given a life sentence with a minimum term of 12 years.

He was released in December 2013 after serving six years longer than his tariff.

Birley was given a whole-life jail sentence at Sheffield Crown Court in 2015 for murdering Mr Gogarty, while Nichols was given a minimum 20-year term.

Mr Dorries stressed that it was “not the function of the inquest” to comment upon the Parole Board’s decision to release Birley.

He said that it was a “major omission” that, at that time, the Probation Service had no provision for drug testing Birley in the community and this had “a more than minimal contribution to the circumstances of Mr Gogarty’s death”.

He also pointed to communication issues between the local mental health trust and the Probation Service about information the trust, which was helping Nichols, had about Birley’s activities.

He said: “At the least, this was a lost opportunity for meaningful communication, which would have led to valuable information being given to the Probation Service. There is a possibility, but not a probability, that this would have altered the outcome.”

Prison: Deaths, Assaults and Self-Harm – and the facts no amount of spin can conceal

 

By Mark Leech

 

 

Look, I get it.

When your back is against the wall and you’re up against it, when every single piece of evidence shows no matter what you do it stubbornly isn’t working, there is a real temptation to find virtue in anything.

But there is no virtue to be found in the latest safety in custody quarterly statistics, where every single one of the key indicators show a continuing annual rise in deaths, violence and self-harm.

Just look at the plain, stripped-of-spin, painful facts.

  • In the 12 months to March 2019, that’s just four weeks ago by the way, there were 317 deaths in prison custody, up 18 from the previous year – of these, 87 deaths were self-inflicted, up 14 from the previous year.
  • Self-harm incidents rose to 55,598 in 2018, a new record high.
  • Incidents requiring hospital attendance rose to a record high of 3,214 in 2018 and the number of self-harm incidents requiring hospital attendance increased by 5% on the previous year to 3,214.
  • Assault incidents increased to 34,223, a record high level in 2018.
  • Annual assault incidents reached a record high of 34,223 incidents in 2018, a 16% increase from 2017.
  • Assaults in the October to December 2018 quarter show a 5% increase on the same quarter of the previous year.
  • The proportion of assaults on staff continue to rise. The proportion of assaults on staff increased to 30% of all incidents in 2018, an increase from 29% in 2017, and a steady increase from 20% between 2008 and 2011.
  • The proportion of assaults on staff (38%) in female establishments in 2018 was higher than in male establishments (29%).
  • In the 12 months to December 2018, there were 3,918 serious assault incidents, up 2% from the previous year.
  • While serious prisoner-on-prisoner assaults decreased by just 1% since the previous year, serious assaults on staff rocketed by 15% (to 995) in the same period.

Now you tell me what has anyone who can read, talk and walk upright, got to applaud here?

When every single indicator across the quarter is at a higher figure than 12 months ago – often reaching yet more ‘new record highs’ – I find nothing to applaud at all.

But Prisons Minister Rory Stewart did.

Indeed despite the reality that every single annual indicator on deaths, assaults and self-harm showed increases, Rory made a video.

In it he managed to keep a straight face while celebrating the fact that, as he saw it, we have turned a corner, there is now light at the end of the tunnel, the signs of success are there he said, and we should all take comfort from the fact that he has it all under control.

No he doesn’t.

It’s one thing to mistake a swallow for the arrival of Summer, but it’s insane to look at these figures and say a single grain of sand means we’ve all arrived on a beach in Ibiza and it’s now Party Time.

No its not.

You can’t look at one quarter’s figures in this custodial world and make presumptions or try and extrapolate it into the future – especially when every single key annual indicator is still on the rise.

This is not a world where exact science works at all.

The prison population is constantly changing,  it’s fluid, it’s a world where there are people with mental illnesses, addictions, learning difficulties, impulsive behaviour issues, gang allegiances, where skilful manipulators and sophisticated fraudsters are at work.

It’s a place where there isn’t and never has been a one size fits all solution to anything.

It’s a world where when you think you’ve got something cracked the whole thing goes tits up proving you haven’t cracked it at all .

Exactly 25 years ago six Exceptional Risk Category A prisoners escaped from the ‘impregnable prison within a prison’ Special Secure Unit at Whitemoor prison, having managed to acquire a gun and ammunition they shot one prison officer and made it out of the unit over two walls and through a fence to short-lived freedom on the other side – the later Woodcock report revealed they’d also managed to smuggle into the SSU one pound of Semtex high explosive.

What seems calm and controlled one minute can blow up in your face the next – and then drop back down again as if nothing has happened just minutes later.

It’s a world where people aren’t afraid of consequences, being sent to prison doesn’t bother them – they’re already there – and they’ve largely spent a lifetime sticking two fingers up to authority and saying ‘fuck you’ whatever may then befall them.

You can take nothing for granted in this custodial world – and certainly not the fragile seeds of hope that even on the best view these figures do not represent.

I know,  I spent 14 years in prison,  during a prison career of riots and roof-top protests, segregation, ghost trains, and 62 different prisons until one day I arrived at Grendon Underwood where the healing process started, where for once I was treated with decency and respect and where my head was taken off and screwed back on the right way round and I haven’t looked back.

But in 61 other prisons it was ‘them and us’ – and consequences were irrelevant; which is why telling the public that the Government has doubled the sentence for assaults on prison officers may appear like progress, but in the real world of prison it’s utterly meaningless – neither prevention nor cure work here, only reasoning succeeds in the end.

I don’t doubt at all that Rory Stewart and David Gauke have the best of intentions but they are political animals, they have a concave view of the world in which they tell lies for a living – no disrespect, it’s just what politicians do – they call it putting a spin on things but to many people it’s just lying.

Yes, the 10 Prisons Project has had some success, I don’t deny that, it was inevitable and it would be strange if the investment in those prisons didn’t see cleaner wings, brighter landings, fresher environments and progress – but there are another 108 prisons where that simply isn’t the case; in fact there are another 108 prisons where things are going from bad to worse and no amount of spin or fresh paint can conceal it.

Don’t take my word for it, just go to the IMB web site and just read the latest annual reports just published.

IMB at HMP Durham: ….The prison has seen large increases in the use of force, assaults, death in custody and illegal use of drugs

IMB at HMP Haverigg …. widespread use of Psychoactive Substances (PS), not only with respect to those addicted to its use but on the general prison population, staff and also on the overall regime.

IMB at HMP Channings Wood …. decline in both the safety and well-being of the prisoners and in the physical condition of their surroundings with a significant increase in the use of the drug Spice and a serious deterioration in the state of the men’s living blocks.

IMB at HMP Hewell say the prison isn’t even fit for the 21st Century – 20 years after we entered it, widespread use of illicit drugs and mobile phones….

And so it goes on.

A splash of spin and a coat of paint can’t conceal reality – Queen Victoria thought the world smelt of fresh paint because, wherever she went, ten feet in front of her was a man with a paint brush; but had she turned the corner, had she gone off-tour, she would have collided with a reality where filth, stench and danger were obvious to anyone who cared to look.

Well, I care to look.

I want to be optimistic, I want to see progress, but equally I refuse to be deceived and distracted by political spin from the reality of a prison world that is, on the statistical facts, one where in terms of violence, death and self-harm it is getting worse not better.

When we’ve had 12 months not 12 weeks (and we haven’t had a single week across all four key indicators yet let’s not forget) of falling figures on deaths, self-harm and assaults in our prisons, when anecdotal evidence matches the figures and confirms that control has been regained and retained then – and not until then – we can say that progress has genuinely been made; rather than just a second-rate video that frankly was as risible to watch as it was as laughable to listen to.

Mark Leech FRSA is the Editor of The Prisons Handbook for England and Wales. @prisonsorguk

Prison Safety Crisis Continues – latest deaths, assaults and self harm figures show increases in all four key areas

Safety in Custody Statistics: Deaths in Prison Custody to March 2019, Assaults and Self-harm to December 2018

New figures released this morning show that once again the levels of violence and self-harm in our prisons are unacceptably high – and show no sign of reducing.

The latest figures show increases across all of the key categories.

Number of deaths have increased compared to the previous 12 month period. In the 12 months to March 2019, there were 317 deaths in prison custody, up 18 from the previous year. Of these, 87 deaths were self-inflicted, up 14 from the previous year.

Self-harm incidents rose to 55,598 in 2018, a new record high, but decreased in the latest quarter. Self-harm incidents reached a record high of 55,598 incidents in 2018, a 25% increase from 2017. The number of incidents between October and December decreased by 7% to 14,313 since the previous quarter.  

Incidents requiring hospital attendance rose to a record high of 3,214 in 2018, although the proportion of incidents requiring hospital attendance has decreased. The number of self-harm incidents requiring hospital attendance increased by 5% on the previous year to 3,214 while the proportion of incidents that required hospital attendance decreased by 1.1 percentage point to 5.8%.

Assault incidents increased to 34,223, a record high level in 2018, but decreased in the latest quarter. Annual assault incidents reached a record high of 34,223 incidents in 2018, a 16% increase from 2017. Assaults in the October to December 2018 quarter decreased to 8,150, a decrease of 11% from the previous quarter, but a 5% increase on the same quarter of the previous year.

The proportion of assaults on staff continue to rise. The proportion of assaults on staff increased to 30% of all incidents in 2018, an increase from 29% in 2017, and a steady increase from 20% between 2008 and 2011. The proportion of assaults on staff (38%) in female establishments in 2018 was higher than in male establishments (29%).

Of the 34,223 assault incidents in 2018, 3,918 (11%) were serious. In the 12 months to December 2018, there were 3,918 serious assault incidents, up 2% from the previous year. Serious prisoner-on-prisoner assaults decreased by 1% since the previous year (to 2,987), and serious assaults on staff increased by 15% (to 995) in the same period. Serious assaults (by 4%), serious prisoner-on-prisoner assaults (by 5%), and serious assaults on staff decreased in the last quarter (by 4%).

Mark Leech, Editor of The Prisons Handbook said the latest prison safety figures show ‘a worrying increase yet again’

Mr Leech said: “These are truly shocking figures yet again, the resignation of the Prisons Minister who promised to go unless he reduced these numbers now seems certain.”

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Bronzefield Prison: Increasingly challenging population but an overwhelmingly safe prison

HMP Bronzefield in Surrey, the largest women’s prison in Europe, was found to have outcomes for the prisoners which were reasonably good or better across HM Inspectorate of Prisons’ healthy prison tests.

 With a capacity of up to 557 prisoners, and opened in 2004, the Sodexo-operated jail holds women ranging from those on remand to those considered as requiring high security restrictions.

 Mr Clarke, HM Chief Inspector of Prisons, said: “This was our first inspection of Bronzefield since 2015 and, as we did then, we found the prison to be an excellent institution.” Bronzefield was an “overwhelmingly safe prison.”

 However, the population had “become more challenging in recent years, with many experiencing significant mental health problems.” Nearly 70% of prisoners in the inspection survey reported having a mental health problem.

“Recorded violence had increased markedly since our last inspection (in 2015) but most incidents were not serious. Arrangements to reduce violence and support victims required some improvements, although weaknesses were mitigated by some very strong informal support offered to prisoners.”

An investigation by the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman (PPO), following the self-inflicted death of a woman in 2016, had raised significant criticisms, but recommendations made by the PPO had been addressed. Self-harm among prisoners remained high, but overall the care for those in crisis was good.

Bronzefield had a clean and decent environment and its key strength was the quality of staff-prisoner relationships. “Most prisoners felt respected or had someone they could turn to for help. The interactions we observed were impressive. The promotion of equality was appropriately prioritised” Mr Clarke said.

Most prisoners had a good amount of time out of cell and there were sufficient activity places for all. Education, skills and work provision had improved considerably, while achievement among learners had also improved. Ofsted inspectors judged provision to be ‘good’ with some outstanding features.

Work to support rehabilitation and release planning would have benefited from a more comprehensive needs analysis but, despite this, the quality of offender management and the effectiveness of resettlement planning were good and public protection work robust. The high standard of family support was commended as good practice.

Mr Clarke said:

“Bronzefield seemed to us to be meeting nearly all its key objectives. There was work to do – a priority being the reduction of violence – but the overall success of the prison was built on healthy and supportive relationships and the knowledge and understanding the Bronzefield staff had of their prisoners, many of whom had high and complex support needs. In addition to the prison being a safe place, prisoners were treated with care and respect and were helped to progress through their sentence ultimately to the point of release. We leave the prison with a small number of recommendations we hope will assist in further progression and congratulate the managers and staff on what they have been able to achieve.”

Phil Copple, Director General of Prisons, said:

“It is clear that staff at Bronzefield are doing great work to help give women, who often have complex needs, all the tools they need to turn their lives around.

“That work includes supporting them through substance abuse and mental health issues, and ensuring they can get education and training that will help them on release.

“In common with other women’s prisons incidents of self-harm and violence remain a concern, but I am pleased to see the governor and his team put in strong mechanisms to reduce this.”

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