HMP Birmingham – Availability of Drugs Still Affecting Safety

HMP-Birmingham1The stability of HMP Birmingham was being adversely affected by the high volume of illicit drugs available, said Peter Clarke, Chief Inspector of Prisons. Prison managers and staff were clearly committed to moving on and making progress after the disturbance last year, he added. Today he published the report of an unannounced inspection of the local West Midlands jail.

HMP Birmingham holds a complex mix of prisoners and is characterised by a very high throughput, with around 500 new prisoners each month and an average stay of only six weeks. In December 2016 a major disturbance took place at the prison. Severe damage was caused to much of the more modern accommodation. Four wings were undergoing repairs at the time of the inspection and were not expected to be in use for some months. Following the disturbance, around 500 prisoners were moved out of the jail, leaving a population of over 900 to be housed in the older Victorian accommodation.

The inspection two months after this serious disturbance was not to enquire into events leading up to it, look for causal factors or comment on the handling of the disturbance. The decision to inspect was to establish the extent to which the prison was housing its remaining prisoners safely and decently and to see whether rehabilitative activity and resettlement work were being successfully delivered. It was also intended to give a snapshot of how the prison was performing in February 2017 to give the leadership a baseline from which they could plan the continuing recovery.

Inspectors were concerned to find that:

  • the safety and stability of the prison were being adversely affected by the high volume of illicit drugs, particularly new psychoactive substances;
  • 50% of prisoners said it was easy to get drugs, and as in so many prisons, drugs were giving rise to high levels of violence, debt and bullying;
  • the prison had a good drug supply reduction strategy and was working well with local police, but more needed to be done;
  • there was still too much inconsistency in the way poor behaviour was dealt with by staff;
  • despite a good range of education and training provision, not enough prisoners were able to take advantage of what was on offer and there was insufficient priority given to getting prisoners to their activities.

 

Inspectors were, however, pleased to find that:

  • there were many positive interactions between staff and prisoners and, in general, staff-prisoner relationships were respectful;
  • health care was generally good; and
  • the community rehabilitation company (CRC) was working better than in other jails.

 

Peter Clarke said:

“The leadership of the prison was clearly committed to meeting the many challenges presented by this large and complex establishment. The events of December 2016 had had a profound effect upon many members of staff. There was still, some two months later, a palpable sense of shock at the suddenness and ferocity of what had happened. Despite this, there was a very clear determination on the part of leadership and staff to move on from the disorder, rebuild and make progress.

“I am well aware that this report is likely to receive very close attention from many people who would like to understand the reasons for the riot. That is not the purpose of this report, and to attempt to use it in that way would be a mistake. This report is no more, and no less, than an account of the treatment of prisoners and the conditions in which we saw them being held during the period of the inspection.”

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

“This report provides an overview of HMP Birmingham two months after the serious disturbance which took place on 16 December. The Chief Inspector rightly draws attention to the impact of the riot on prisoners and staff but describes a prison which is now ‘in recovery’ and making positive progress.

“There remains more to do to provide purposeful activity and to tackle violence and illicit drug use but the staff and the leadership team deserve credit for the commendable way they have responded to the challenges to date.

“We are determined to learn lessons from what happened at Birmingham and will work closely with G4S to achieve improvement. Additional staff are being recruited and G4S will use the recommendations in this report to drive progress over the coming months.”

A copy of the full report, published on 28 June, can be found on the HM Inspectorate of Prisons website at: www.justiceinspectorates.gov.uk/hmiprisons

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

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.

Inmates ‘take over wing’ at Northumberland prison

acklington

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.

‘Tornado’ Prison Officers Allege Oakwood Riot Cover-up

oakwood

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.