Prisons in the press – 23 October


Access to libraries cut and use of illegal highs is on the rise   

Now books and letters are being used to smuggle drugs into prison. Image: banlon1964

Now books and letters are being used to smuggle drugs into prison. Image: banlon1964

Prisons in the press brings you the best articles from the past week to keep you up-to-date on prison news.

Hot off the press

Staff shortages are forcing prisoners to chose between showers and books. Charities say limits on access to prison libraries in England and Wales – blamed on a lack of escorts or unsupportive governors – is harming inmate rehabilitation. The Guardian has the full story.

In context

Lack of access to libraries is having a serious impact on the education, training and rehabilitation of prisoners at a time when the government is under huge pressure to reduce the high rate of reoffending.

David Cameron thrust the issue into the limelight in his speech to the Conservative party conference: “Nearly half go to prison with no qualifications; many come out with none either… We have got to get away from the sterile lock-’em up or let-’em-out debate, and get smart about this.”

Former Chief Inspector of Prisons, Lord Ramsbotham says the significance reading could play in rehabilitating prisoners is being missed:

“When you look at the emotional well-being of prisoners, things like books do assume a great importance. Prison populations are made up of the sad, the mad and the bad. The bad are by far the smallest number, they are maximum 10-15%. We want to focus on the 85% and what they need.”

Not only are inmates unable to access books, in reply to parliamentary questions put down by Ramsbotham, ministers have revealed the government has no research or statistics on how many prisoners are able to get the weekly library visit they are entitled to.

For the full story, click here.


Despite the ban on books sent to prison being lifted last year, some prison officers still return them. Image:

Although the ban on books being sent to prison was lifted in September, some prison staff still return the parcels. Image: Janet Lindenmuth

To read  more about David Cameron’s speech to the Conservative Party Conference, click here.


Revealed this week 

  1. Justice Secretary warned to replace child prisons with smaller units to reduce re-offending. A report commissioned by Children’s Commissioner Anne Longfield says children are more likely to suffer violence and longer periods of isolation if detained in young offenders institutions. The BBC has more.
  2. Legal highs rife in East Midlands prison after books and letters are soaked in LSD-style highs. The Prison’s Independent Monitoring Board raised concerns that prisoners of HMP Stocken were receiving ‘impregnated’ pages from relatives and friends. Read more here.
  3. Inmates at Staffordshire prison rack up £32,000 bill for deliberate prison fires. There have been 131 fires caused by inmates at HMP Stafford since April 2013. The Express and Star have the full story.
  4. Prison officer sacked for abusing position to woo inmates partners after visiting their men in jail. The Mirror reports that newly-wed Cameron MacKie collected the personal contact details of ‘pretty blondes’ through his job on visitor reception at HMP Grampian. Read the full story here.


Online and behind bars 

  1. Footage shows brutal prison fight between rival gangs inside London prison. The film (which was sent to an inmate’s friend via WhatsApp) shows staff at HMP Onley failing to break-up the scrap, which was eventually ended by other prisoners . The Mirror has the full story and the video.
  2. In the same week, prisoners at HMP Rochester, Kent, have been filmed bare-knuckle fighting to win tobacco. The footage, which sent to an outside source via WhatsApp, shows two young inmates fighting while being cheered by other prisoners. Kent Online has more.
  3. Scottish prison launches investigation into illegal use of Facebook behind bars. Authorities at Shotts Prison, Lanarkshire, are investigating 80 cases of convicts logging on to Facebook in the past five. The Daily Record has the story.


In other news 

In last week’s Prisons in the Press we brought you the news that a restaurant entirely run by prisoners (The Clink in Cardiff) had made the UK’s top 10 (you can read more about that here).

This week, waitress Debbie from The Clink in Cheshire, who is serving a five and a half year sentence has told the BBC that the “prison restaurant job will help change my life.” Read her full interview here.


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