Prisons Inspectorate’s Thematic Review on Close Supervision Centres published

Manchester Prison where there is a CSC Special Interventions Unit
Manchester Prison where there is a CSC Special Interventions Unit

Although clear progress had been made in clarifying the aims and processes of the system for managing the most dangerous prisoners in the country said Nick Hardwick, Chief Inspector of Prisons, in a Thematic Review report published today (25/8/2015) on Close Supervision Centres in English high security prisons, prison commentators also made clear there were a number of serious concerns.

The Close Supervision Centre (CSC) system holds about 60 of the most dangerous men in the prison system. Many of these are men who have been imprisoned for very serious offences which have done great harm, have usually committed subsequent very serious further offences in prison and whose dangerous and disruptive behaviour is too difficult to manage in ordinary prison location. They are held in small units or individual designated cells throughout the high security prison estate. These men are likely to be held for many years in the most restrictive conditions with limited stimuli and human contact.

The system is run by a central team as part of the Prison Service’s high security directorate, although day to day management is the responsibility of the individual prisons in which the units or cells are located. A further 14 men who do not quite meet the threshold for the CSC system are held under the ‘Managing Challenging Behaviour Strategy (MCBS) in similar but slightly less restrictive conditions. This is extreme custody and its management raises complex operational challenges and profound ethical issues. The aim of the system was to remove the most dangerous prisoners from ordinary location, manage them in small units and use individual or group work to reduce their risks so they could return to normal or other suitable location.

Inspectors were pleased to find that:

  • leadership of the system as whole was clear, principled and courageous;
  • decisions to select prisoners the CSC system were based on a clear set of published criteria and a robust risk assessment;
  • some good support was provided to staff;
  • staff understood the men in their care well, enabling them to manage problematic behaviour effectively and promote change;
  • despite the significant risks the men posed, the majority of prisoners and staff felt safe;
  • most security restrictions and behavioural management work appeared measured and proportionate; and
  • staff-prisoner relationships were reassuring good, and psychological and psychiatric services were strong.

However, inspectors were concerned to find that:

  • there was no independent scrutiny or external involvement in decision-making, which was particularly important given the highly restrictive nature of the units, restrictions on access to legal aid and the difficulties prisoners had in being deselected;
  • delivery of some important processes varied and a minority of managers and staff did not understand the ethos of the system or embrace their role within it;
  • the use of designated cells in segregation units had often led to prisoners being held there for many months or even years, with poor regimes and little emphasis on progression, which was contrary to the prison rule 46 under which they were held;
  • the centrally managed MCBS units also needed improved governance;
  • more needed to be done to offset the real potential for psychological deterioration by the more imaginative provision of in and out of cell activities;
  • daily living conditions in the small units were cramped;
  • there was a very high proportion of black and minority ethnic prisoners and Muslim men held, although management had commissioned research to look at the reasons for this; and
  • more work needed to be done on progression and reintegration, which was critical to ensuring the system was not used as a long-term containment option for dangerous men.

Nick Hardwick said:

“Leadership of the system as a whole was clear, principled and courageous. We do not underestimate the risk the men held in the CSC system pose or the complexity of working with them. The overall humanity and care provided to men whom it would have been easy to consign to the margins of the prison system was impressive. The system had a clear set of aims, was basically well run and founded on sound security and psychological principles and sought to contain men safely and decently. There were, however, a number of important issues that needed to be addressed.

“Management arrangements needed attention to ensure consistency and external involvement in decision-making was needed to provide transparency and rigor. The use of designated cells needed far greater control and there needed to be more clarity concerning the MCBS prisoners. Aspects of the environment needed to be improved, and men required greater opportunities to occupy their time purposefully. The reasons why a disproportionate number of black and minority ethnic and Muslim men were held needed to be better understood.

“Nevertheless, the CSC system provided a means of managing the most challenging men in the prison system in a way that minimised the risks to others and offered men the basic conditions to lead a decent and safe life. We support the continued commitment to resource and support it and commend many of the people who worked positively within the system, despite some of the obvious risks and challenges.”

Mark Leech editor of The Prisons Handbook for England and Wales, and Converse the national newspaper for prisoners, welcomed the report but said there were still serious concerns that must be urgently addressed.

Mr Leech said: “There are five CSC Units located in Wakefield, Woodhill, Full Sutton, Manchester and Whitemoor prisons, with further designated CSC cells in Belmarsh, Frankland and Long Lartin prisons.

“While the CSC, and also the MCBS, systems are not ideal they are a vital way of managing a small number of very dangerous prisoners, often those who have killed other prisoners while in custody.

“The aim always must be the safe, humane and secure custody for CSC prisoners and staff, and it is vital those who manage the CSC system do not lose sight of the longer term aim of returning CSC inmates to normal location when sustained good behaviour and proven lowered risk warrants it.

“However there are real concerns over the high proportion of black, minority ethnic prisoners and Muslim men held in CSCs, the real lack of independent oversight in the decision-making process also needs addressing urgently because of the lack of legal aid to raise challenges, and the legality of holding such inmates in segregation units contrary to Rule 46 for extended period of time must be confronted without delay.”

A copy of the full report can be found on the HM Inspectorate of Prisons website from 25 August 2015 at: justiceinspectorate.gov.uk/hmiprisons

Six more years for death threat prisoners

Feroz Khan (L) Fuad Awale (R)
Feroz Khan (L) Fuad Awale (R)

Two inmates already serving life for murder have been sentenced to six more years each for threatening to kill a prison officer at a North Yorkshire jail days after the murder of Fusilier Lee Rigby.

Feroz Khan and Fuad Awale, both 26, were found guilty at the Old Bailey last week following the incident at HMP Full Sutton on May 26 last year.

Khan was also convicted of inflicting grievous bodily harm on prison officer Richard Thompson after relations between Muslim inmates and guards ”became strained” in the days following Fusilier Rigby’s death.

Judge Michael Topolski QC sentenced Khan to six years for threats to kill and three years for GBH, to run concurrently at the end of his life sentence with a minimum of 20 years.

Awale was also sentenced to six years for threats to kill, to be served at the end of his life sentence, which carries a minimum term of 38 years.

Passing sentence, the judge said: “This was a premeditated, well planned and carefully orchestrated attack on a single and previously identified prison officer, who was, as such, performing a public duty and upon whom it has had a significant impact.

“The events as a whole formed part of a joint enterprise involving force and weapons, committed by men with convictions for murder.

“Both of you carried weapons to the cleaning office.

“Given the context, the level of threats uttered and repeated were truly appalling, causing great anguish, not just to prison officer Thompson but also his colleagues who were convinced he was going to die in horrific circumstances.”

The men were cleared by the jury of charges of false imprisonment during the four and a half hour stand-off along with co-defendant David Watson, 27.

Khan was also found not guilty of assault occasioning actual bodily harm against another officer.

Their trial earlier this year heard allegations that the defendants called for the release of Abu Qatada and Roshonara Choudhry, a student who attempted to stab MP Stephen Timms to death in 2010.

They were also accused of demanding to be flown to Afghanistan, the jury heard.

Awale had taken knives from a cleaning office cupboard and rubbed them together giving the impression he was “preparing to carve a Sunday joint”, the judge said.

He told Mr Thompson: “Stop struggling – I’ve killed two people, I will kill you, I will kill you.”

The officer said he had “every belief” he would be killed if he did not do as ordered because of the “intensity and seriousness” Awale had displayed.

Awale at one point asked Khan “can I give him one in a non-vital area?” and later said: “I thought his head would have come off by now.”

Khan, for his part, told Mr Thompson that he had more reason to be fearful because he was believed to be ex-military, the court heard.

When hedenied having been in the military, Khan told the officer: “Well, somebody has to make a sacrifice.”

Rising numbers of Prison Muslims are “fuelling extremism”

muslimprisoners-whitemoor

Rising numbers of prisoners are becoming ‘convenience Muslims’ leading to heightened tensions with guards and fuelling extremism, the head of the Prison Officers’ Association has warned.

Union general secretary Steve Gillan said that many prisoners were turning to Islam to win benefits, and to gain the status associated with being part of a gang.

He said prison staff were coming under threat from groups of Muslims on a daily basis, and warned that young prisoners were at risk of being radicalised while behind bars.

In 1991 there were 1,957 Muslims serving prison sentences in England and Wales, but numbers had risen to 11,683 by 2013.

Mr Gillan said that many converts, who are known as ‘convenience Muslims’, changed faiths because it meant they were entitled to more time outside of their cells and offered better food.

Muslim prisoners are also excluded from work and education on Fridays so they can attend prayers.

Mr Gillan said that others wanted the status and security of being part of a particular group while in prison, and that it was relatively common for prisoners to leave Islam upon their release.

‘Some people also believe that it is better to have a cult status and belong to a particular gang

‘What we’ve got to guard against is the real threat of the extremists and the radicalisation of young, disaffected prisoners,’ Mr Gillan told The Times. ‘They are the extremists of tomorrow.’

Mr Gillan’s comments came as two Muslim prisoners who were already serving life sentences for murder were found guilty of making threats to kill an officer during a siege at HMP Full Sutton, near York, in the days after the death of Fusilier Lee Rigby.

Feroz Khan and Fuad Awale, both 26, were convicted of threatening Richard Thompson, with Khan also found guilty of inflicting grievous bodily harm on the guard.

Both men, along with another prisoner, David Watson, 27, had been accused of holding Mr Thompson hostage on May 26 last year, and demanding the release of radical preacher Abu Qatada and Roshonara Choudhry, a student who attempted to stab MP Stephen Timms to death in 2010.

They were also accused of demanding to be flown to Afghanistan, the jury heard.

However, they were cleared of the false imprisonment, and Khan was found not guilty of assault occasioning actual bodily harm against another officer, Rachel Oxtoby.

The trial at the Old Bailey had heard that relations between prison staff and some of the Muslim inmates ‘became strained’ in the days after Fusilier Rigby was murdered.

The court was told that Khan had planned the attack after telling another guard that it was a Muslim’s duty to ‘fight until Sharia law is established in every country’.

Jury members also heard that Khan and Awale targeted Mr Thompson, believing him to be ex-British military, and that Khan had beaten the guard, fracturing his eye socket before threatening to kill him.

As Mr Thompson was pinned to his chair Awale pointed a sharp implement by his throat and said: ‘Stop struggling, I’ve killed two people – I’ll kill you’.

Khan had told jurors he planned to take a prison guard hostage in order to stage a high profile terrorist incident ‘perfectly timed’ with the murder of Drummer Rigby.

The convict claimed that he acted in the days after the soldier’s death so he could gain maximum media exposure.
He said he was in ‘constant fear’ of his life following a rise in tension on Echo Wing and that he felt threatened by prison staff and non-Muslim inmates in the wake of the Woolwich murder.

Khan, Awale and Watson were all serving life sentences for murder at the time of the incident, and all three had become devout Muslims following their convictions.

On February 26, 2007, Khan shot his friend Skander Rehman in the back of the head at point blank range after luring him to a park in Bradford – wrongly believing he was having an affair with his wife.

Somali-born Awale was convicted in Janurary last year of the double murder of two teenagers, Mohammed Abdi Farah, 19, and Amin Ahmed Ismail, 18, who were shot in a Milton Keynes drug war on May 26, 2011.

Watson, a white Muslim convert, stabbed to death a security guard at a HMV store in Norwich’s Chapelfield shopping centre after being caught with a stolen CD on December 18, 2006.

The drug dealer murdered Paul Cavanagh after fearing police would find £10,000 of crack cocaine he had in a carrier bag.

Khan and Awale were told they would be sentenced next week.

The Muslim prison population has increased since 2009 by nearly 1,500 – 550 of those in the last 12 months alone.

The court was told that one in three prisoners at Full Sutton are Muslim.

At Long Lartin in Worcestershire the proportion is 20 per cent and in Whitemoor, a top-security prison in Cambridgeshire, more than four in ten prisoners are Muslim.

In Belmarsh prison in London, which houses Lee Rigby murderers Michael Adebolajo and Michael Adebowale, one in three inmates is a Muslim.

Mr Gillan said: ‘Incidents like that at Full Sutton are becoming more and more of a daily threat. Prison officers regularly raise issues about Muslim radicalism and the concerns they have about doing their jobs generally against [a backdrop of] gang culture.’

Muslim prisoners ‘injured’ after refusing to join Muslim prison gang

fullsutton

An increasing number of Muslim inmates complain they are being intimidated to join the Muslim Brotherhood, a prison gang, and some have received injuries following a refusal to do so.

Mark Leech editor of Converse the national newspaper for prisoners in England and Wales said he was aware of an ‘increasing number of complaints’ from Muslim prisoners in the High Security prison estate who claim to have been intimidated to join the prison-based ‘Muslim Brotherhood’.

Mr Leech said: “Radicalisation of Muslims in the High Security Estate is nothing new and the existence of the Muslim Brotherhood is equally well-known, what I find disturbing is that I have seen an increasing number of Muslim inmates and their families complaining that their loved ones are being intimidated into joining this group and some have received injuries, perhaps unconnected with their refusal, after persistently declining to join.

“One firm of personal injury solicitors I am in touch with confirm they act for a Muslim inmate seriously injured in Full Sutton prison after he continually refused to join the Full Sutton Muslim Brotherhood – unusually and perhaps of significance is the fact that prison staff at HMP Full Sutton have given evidence supporting his case.

“Prison gangs like the Muslim Brotherhood can feed on fear and perpetrate a belief that there is safety in numbers – we should not forget that the Prison Inspection report published in April 2013 on Full Sutton said:

We had two main areas of concern. First, the perceptions of black and minority ethnic prisoners and Muslim prisoners about many aspects of their treatment and conditions were much more negative than for white and non-Muslim prisoners. For example, significantly fewer told us staff treated them with respect and significantly more said they felt unsafe.

“Treating all prisoners with respect and equality is the challenge for the management of Full Sutton, a Maximum Security prison which in so many other respects has shown itself well able to rise to difficult challenges and overcome them – and on this important one it must not be allowed to fail.”

Hostage incident linked to Rigby murder – Muslim inmates intimidated to join prison gang

full sutton

Prison chiefs have linked an attack on a prison officer to the Lee Rigby murder and warned prison staff of an increased risk of threats, according to reports – while an increasing number of Muslim inmates complain they are being intimidated to join the Muslim Brotherhood, a prison gang, and some have received injuries following a refusal to do so.

A male prison officer was left with a broken cheekbone after being held hostage by three male prisoners, two aged 25 and one aged 26, at HMP Full Sutton in Yorkshire on Sunday.

An email circulated to staff in top-security jails and young offender institutions and seen by The Times said: “Three Muslim prisoners took an officer hostage in an office.

“Their demands indicated they supported radical Islamist extremism.

“All staff are reminded to remain vigilant to the increased risk of potential attacks on prison officers inspired by these and last Wednesday’s events.”

Counter-terrorism officers have been brought in to investigate the attack at the maximum security jail, during which a female warder was also injured.

So far, 10 people have been held by detectives investigating the young soldier’s death, including Adebowale and Adebolajo.

These include a 50-year-old man, arrested on Monday, who was released on bail yesterday.

A 22-year-old man arrested in Highbury, north London, on Sunday and three men detained on Saturday over the killing have all been released on bail, as has a fifth man, aged 29.

Two women, aged 29 and 31, were arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to murder but later released without charge.

Mark Leech editor of Converse the national newspaper for prisoners in England and Wales said he was aware of an ‘increasing number of complaints’ from Muslim prisoners in the High Security prison estate who claim to have been intimidated to join the prison-based ‘Muslim Brotherhood’.

Mr Leech said: “Radicalisation of Muslims in the High Security Estate is nothing new and the existence of the Muslim Brotherhood is equally well-known, what I find disturbing is that I have seen an increasing number of Muslim inmates and their families complaining that their loved ones are being intimidated into joining this group and some have received injuries, perhaps unconnected with their refusal, after persistently declining to join.

“One firm of personal injury solicitors I am in touch with confirm they act for a Muslim inmate seriously injured in Full Sutton prison after he continually refused to join the Full Sutton Muslim Brotherhood – unusually and perhaps of significance is the fact that prison staff at HMP Full Sutton have given evidence supporting his case.

“Prison gangs like the Muslim Brotherhood can feed on fear and perpetrate a belief that there is safety in numbers – we should not forget that the Prison Inspection report published in April 2013 on Full Sutton said:

We had two main areas of concern. First, the perceptions of black and minority ethnic prisoners and Muslim prisoners about many aspects of their treatment and conditions were much more negative than for white and non-Muslim prisoners. For example, significantly fewer told us staff treated them with respect and significantly more said they felt unsafe.

“Treating all prisoners with respect and equality is the challenge for the management of Full Sutton, a Maximum Security prison which in so many other respects has shown itself well able to rise to difficult challenges and overcome them – and on this important one it must not be allowed to fail.”

Hostage Incident Ends At Full Sutton

full sutton

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.”