HMP Durham: Must Address Violence, Drugs and Deaths says Inspectors

HMP Durham, a heavily overcrowded prison, was found by inspectors to have significant problems with drugs and violence and worryingly high levels of self-harm and self-inflicted and drug-related deaths.

Durham became a reception prison in 2017. Around 70% of the 900 men in the jail were either on remand or subject to recall and over 70% had been in Durham for less than three months. On average, 118 new prisoners arrived each week. Significant numbers of prisoners said they arrived at the jail feeling depressed or suicidal. Self-harm was very high.

Peter Clarke, HM Chief Inspector of Prisons, said: “Our overriding concern was around the lack of safety. Since the last inspection in October 2016, there had been seven self-inflicted deaths, and it was disappointing to see that the response to recommendations from the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman (which investigates deaths) had not been addressed with sufficient vigour or urgency.

“There had also been a further five deaths in the space of eight months where it was suspected that illicit drugs might have played a role.” Drugs were readily available in the jail and nearly two-thirds of prisoners said it was easy to get drugs; 30% said they had acquired a drug habit since coming into the prison. “These were very high figures”, Mr Clarke said, though the prison had developed a strategy to address the drugs problem.

The leadership, Mr Clarke added, was “immensely frustrated by the fact that they had no modern technology available to them to help them in their efforts to stem the flow of drugs into the prison. We were told that they had been promised some modern scanning equipment but that it had been diverted to another prison.” The scale of the drugs problem and related violence meant that technological support was urgently needed.

Since the last inspection at Durham in 2016, violence had doubled and the use of force by staff had increased threefold, though some of the increase in force may have been due to new staff who were not yet confident in using de-escalation techniques. Governance of the use of force had improved.

Mr Clarke added: “There were some very early signs that the level of violence was beginning to decline, but it was too early to be demonstrable as a sustainable trend.”

Alongside these concerns, inspectors noted “many positive things happening at the prison.” These included the introduction of in-cell phones and electronic kiosks on the wings for prisoners to make applications, which had “undoubtedly been beneficial”. The disruption caused by prisoners needing to be taken to court had been reduced by the extensive use of video links.

A new and more predictable daily regime had recently been introduced, increasing access for men to amenities such as showers and laundry on the wings. “For a prison of this type, the time out of cell enjoyed by prisoners was reasonable and it was quite apparent that, despite its age, the prison was basically clean and decent,” Mr Clarke said. It was also good that the leadership saw new staff as an opportunity to make improvements, not an inexperienced liability.

Overall, Mr Clarke said:

“There was no doubt that there was an extent to which HMP Durham was still going through the process of defining, refining and responding to its role as a reception prison. The very large throughput of prisoners gave rise to the risk that taking them through the necessary processes could predominate over identifying individual needs and ensuring favourable outcomes. However, the prison was aware of this risk. The most pressing needs are to get to grips with the violence of all kinds, make the prison safer and reduce the flow of drugs. Only then will the benefits flow from the many creditable initiatives that are being implemented.”

Mark Leech, Editor of The Prisons Handbook for England and Wales said:

“Apart from security, safety must be the primary function of any prison but the number of deaths at Durham, and particularly the failure to implement the recommendations of the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman designed to reduce deaths in custody, is deeply worrying.

“Only yesterday I wrote an open Letter about this issue to the Ombudsman, and this report reinforces the point that prisons must have the resources to implement PPO recommendations otherwise what is the use of them in the first place?”

Prisons minister Rory Stewart said: “We are determined to install full airport-style security with the right dogs, technology, scanners and search teams to detect drugs.

“We will install the technology in Durham and we will be rolling it out across our local prisons. Tackling drugs is vital for reducing violence.”

Birmingham Prison: A Prisons Where “Violence is rife and staff are fearful” Says Ex-inmate

Violence is rife, staff are even more fearful than prisoners, and drug use is routine inside HMP Birmingham, according to an inmate who was released on Monday.

Other prisoners being freed after completing their sentences claimed mobile phones were changing hands inside the jail for around £150.

One inmate, waiting for a relative to pick him up after being released from a six-week sentence, said: “It’s fair to say most of the prisoners are terrified in there but the screws are even more terrified than the prisoners.

“I’m surprised it has taken so long for the inspectors to do something – there are drugs everywhere. The place is a joke.”

Another man, in his 20s, told reporters: “I’ve just spent six weeks in there and the conditions are pretty shit, to be honest – from what I have seen there are a lot of drugs.

“Drugs have taken over the prison and G4S have just let it happen. The prisoners were in control and it doesn’t feel safe.

“There were a lot of people on my wing that just stayed behind the door because they were scared to come out.”

A third inmate being freed from the jail’s main gate said he believed prisoners had gained more influence since a 15-hour riot in 2016 during which a bunch of keys were taken from a warder and used to unlock cells.

“I’ve been inside for five-and-a-half years and I think the prisoners run it, to be honest – and that’s the best way in my opinion.”

Some of the men being released also claimed that trainers were often stolen, leaving more vulnerable inmates wearing flip-flops on wings where even the smallest argument could trigger serious violence.

None of the men would give their names.

HMP WOODHILL – Some notable improvements but concerns over violence and suicides

woodhillThe provision of work, training and education had improved at HMP Woodhill and its rehabilitation services were good, but violence and a high number of self-inflicted deaths were significant concerns, said Martin Lomas, Deputy Chief Inspector of Prisons. Today he published the report of an unannounced inspection of the jail near Milton Keynes.

HMP Woodhill is as a core local prison, meaning while the bulk of its population is a mixture of remanded and short-sentenced men with the mental health, substance misuse and other issues typical of local prisons, it also has a high security function for a small number of category A prisoners. The prison also has a Close Supervision Centre (CSC), part of a national system for managing some of the most high-risk prisoners in the system, which is inspected separately. Previous inspections of HMP Woodhill have repeatedly raised concerns about the prison and, in particular, weaknesses in the support of men at risk of suicide or self-harm and the poor provision of work, training and education. This inspection found real improvements had been made but more still needed to be done to reduce the likelihood of further self-inflicted deaths. There had been five more self-inflicted deaths since the last inspection, making nine since 2012. This was an unacceptable toll.

Inspectors were concerned to find that:

  • early days in custody are a critical time and five of the nine deaths since 2012 had involved new arrivals who had been in the prison for less than two weeks;
  • reception processes were efficient but the role of the first night centre was undermined because it was also used to hold prisoners difficult to locate elsewhere;
  • some prisoners requiring opiate substitution treatment or alcohol detoxification were mistakenly placed in the first night centre rather than the specialist stabilisation unit, which was particularly dangerous for prisoners requiring alcohol detoxification;
  • too many first night cells were dirty and poorly equipped;
  • recommendations by the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman following previous deaths in custody had not been implemented with sufficient rigour;
  • there were not enough Listeners (prisoners trained by the Samaritans to provide confidential emotional support to prisoners);
  • mental health services had been hit by staff shortages and only 18% of residential staff had received mental health awareness training in the past three years; and
  • although the prison felt calm, a sizeable minority (one in five prisoners) said they felt unsafe at the time of the inspection and levels of violence were higher than elsewhere and included some serious assaults on prisoners and staff.

 

However, inspectors were pleased to find that:

  • impressive progress had been made in the provision of work, training and education, and the provision of activity for short-term prisoners was an example other local prisons could follow;
  • the quality of teaching and learning had improved and there was good emphasis on helping prisoners to improve their literacy and numeracy;
  • activities were intelligently geared to the labour markets in areas to which most prisoners would be returning;
  • the support given to prisoners at risk of suicide and self-harm was often better than the records showed and those prisoners subject to ACCT monitoring told inspectors they felt well cared for;
  • security arrangements were generally appropriate for the population;
  • drug availability was lower than elsewhere, although the prison needed to be alert to the increasing availability of Spice;
  • the environment in the segregation unit had improved and staff worked well with some very complex prisoners;
  • there had been good progress in reducing the backlogs in risk assessments and sentence planning and public protection arrangements were good; and
  • despite the complexity of new arrangements, including two new community rehabilitation companies working in the prison, most practical resettlement services were good.

 

Martin Lomas said:

“HMP Woodhill is an improving prison and its very good purposeful activity and good rehabilitation services are better than we have seen recently in many other local prisons. Good outcomes in these areas help to create a sense of purpose and hope and reduce frustration and tension. Despite this, levels of violence are a significant concern and the number of self-inflicted deaths in recent years has been unacceptably high. The main priority of the prison must be to tackle these two areas.”

 

Michael Spurr, Chief Executive of the National Offender Management Service, said:

“As the Chief Inspector says, Woodhill has made impressive progress in providing work, education, training and support to help prisoners turn their lives around.

“Given the significant operational pressures the prison has faced this is an excellent achievement.

“Tackling increased levels of violence and preventing suicides is the top priority for the Governor and for the Prison Service as a whole. Tragically, as recent incidents at Woodhill have demonstrated, the challenge is considerable – but we will use the recommendations in this report to further develop and improve our approach.”

A copy of the full report can be found at: justiceinspectorates.gov.uk/hmiprison

Prison assault on ex-soldier was ‘terrorist attack’

2paraThe Times has reported that a former paratrooper on remand in prison has been severely beaten by a gang in a “terrorist attack”, it was alleged yesterday.

Eight men assaulted Craig Jones in his cell at Hewell prison, West Midlands. One of the gang members is alleged to be a Muslim serving ten years for causing the death of a soldier by dangerous driving in 2014.

Jones, formerly of 2nd Battalion, The Parachute Regiment, had only recently arrived at the jail and was targeted because of his military service, a source said. “I was told he had a fractured eye socket, they sliced up his face and beat him to within an inch of his life. It was a major incident,” the source added.

Jones was taken to Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Birmingham, where soldiers injured in Iraq and Afghanistan are treated. He is expected to be returned to prison shortly.

A Prison Service spokesman confirmed that an incident had taken place and said that a police and prison investigation had been started.

“A prisoner at HMP Hewell was taken to hospital following an incident on Saturday, January 9,” the spokesman said. “The circumstances are being investigated by both the police and the prison, and we will take action against anyone found to have been involved.”

The Muslim inmate was jailed in October. He had already been banned from driving when he sped through a red light at almost 70mph and ploughed into the back of a car being driven by the soldier, killing him instantly.

He ignored the carnage at the scene and ran off, but four witnesses wrestled him to the ground. The victim had served with the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers and received full military honours at his funeral.

Nick Hardwick, the outgoing chief inspector of prisons, expressed concern last month about the threat posed by Muslim gangs in jails, including fears that they may be radicalising vulnerable inmates.

He said prison officers should not be deterred from tracking gang-related activity if the members of the gangs were Muslims.

One prison governor said that the growing influence of Muslim gangs was a major issue for the jail system. The governor said that many prisoners were so fearful of Muslims that they formed alliances with them for protection.

Others, however, say that some inmates were attracted to joining Muslim gangs because they were seen as the latest powerful group in Britain’s jails.

Prison sources said that the attack on Jones was not being investigated as a racist incident, but was thought to be linked to a dispute over tobacco.

Hewell prison holds 1,266 remand and sentenced prisoners. A prison inspection report in 2014 found significant levels of violence, including some serious attacks. The previous year there was an attempted murder. The report said prisoner-on-prisoner assaults were high and that they were often linked to debt, which arose because of delays in new inmates receiving orders of tobacco from the jail’s shop.

18 Months for Judge Attack Man

hhjdevaux

A fitness instructor who attacked a judge and knocked off his wig at Ipswich Crown Court has been jailed for 18 months after admitting contempt of court.

Paul Graham, 27, of Quendon Place, Haverhill, raced from the public gallery and vaulted over a gate to get behind the judge’s bench before throwing punches at Judge John Devaux in court two.

Judge Devaux had just sentenced his brother, Philip Graham, 30, of the same address, to 30 months in prison for causing death by dangerous driving.

Appearing in handcuffs and wearing a black vest top before Judge David Goodin, Paul Graham admitted contempt.

He was flanked in the dock by three security guards throughout the hearing and an extra guard stood by the exit.

Judge Goodin described how the High Sheriff of Suffolk Sir Edward Greenwell and a local clergyman who had been sitting alongside Judge Devaux “did their best to bring the attack to an end”.

Police officers in the case managed to restrain Paul Graham before security guards led him away.

“When the judge had passed the inevitable sentence of imprisonment, you left the public gallery at speed, travelled down the side of the court very fast, vaulted over the wooden gate at the side of the bench, physically attacked Judge Devaux by punches which actually caused no physical injury,” he said.

“That conduct was disruptive, insulting and intimidating. It was a contempt of court.

“We have in this country courts which are open to the public, but what you did was an attack on justice, on the administration of justice, an attack on the rule of law.

“Any violent physical attack on the judge or any member of court staff or officer of the court must be dealt with severely.”

Richard Potts, mitigating, said his client did not accept he threw punches but accepted there had been a struggle and that he had behaved in an intimidating manner.

He added: “He has instructed me to apologise unreservedly on his behalf. He is a physically fit man and had he really wished to do real physical harm, there is no doubt he could have done so.

“It was a spontaneous act borne out of high emotion. It was an outpouring of grief. There is going to be a substantial diminution in the family as a result of both brothers being in custody.”

He added that Paul Graham had a university education and was qualified as a security guard and personal trainer.

Philip Graham was convicted after a trial earlier this year of killing father-of-two Derek Foster, 37, when his car hit the victim’s motorcycle on the B1054 in July last year.

Mr Foster’s widow and family were in court at the time of the attack.

Court reporter Jane Hunt, who witnessed the drama, wrote in the East Anglian Daily Times: “In a matter of seconds, and before anyone had time to react, the man raced past the press bench where I was sitting and past lawyers involved in the case and vaulted a wooden gate leading to the area where Judge Devaux was.

“During the melee Judge Devaux’s wig and glasses were pulled off and after the man, who was ranting and shouting abuse throughout the incident, was pulled away from him the judge was led from court by staff looking shaken but apparently uninjured.”