Prisons in the press – 18 December

Prison riots, budgets cuts and Christmas decorations…

Prison staff across the country have this week been injured in a number of riots. Image: macwagen

Prison staff across the country have this week been injured in a number of riots. Image: macwagen


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

Surge in disciplinary hearings “feeding vicious cycle“. A report by the Howard League for Penal Reform says a record number of hearings led to 438 years of extra imprisonment for inmates last year. The Guardian has the story.

In context

The number of punishment hearings held inside prisons has risen by 24 per cent in the past year with almost 160,000 extra days – or 438 years – of imprisonment imposed on inmates, according to the Howard League.

The Punishment in Prison report says the record 21,629 disciplinary hearings, known as external adjudications, held in prisons in England and Wales in 2014-15 reflects a growing volatility and violence behind bars. It says:

“The system of adjudications has bloated beyond its originally intended use, which was to punish incidents of unacceptable behaviour. Indeed, in the most out-of-control prisons it has become a routinely used behaviour management technique.”

The hearings, usually presided over by a prison governor, mainly concern disobedience, disrespect or property offences, which penal reformers say tend to increase as prisons lose control under pressure of overcrowding and staff cuts.


Nine out of the ten prisons that most frequently imposed extra days as punishment hold young offenders.

To find out more about life in prison for young offenders, click here.



Revealed this week 

  1. Almost 50 mobile phones seized from inmates in Scottish prison to stop gangs operating behind bars. New figures show that 44 devices were seized from inside Peterhead’s HMP Grampian in the last 12 months. The Press and Journal has more.
  2. Michael Gove performs another U-turn as extra prison officers recruited. An extra 540 officers have been drafter in during the past year after the Coalition cut numbers by almost 10,000 over the previous four years. The Mirror has the story.
  3. Rye Hill prison must “do more to stop grooming by inmates“. Staff at a jail which houses more than 600 sex offenders must be more alert to the risk of prisoner-on-prisoner sexual grooming, an inspection report said. The BBC has more.
  4. A trans woman in a men’s prison ‘injected bleach into her testicles‘. Pink News reports the shadow minister for women Cat Smith read out the statement in a letter she received from a transgender woman currently serving her sentence in a men’s prison.
  5. Development plans for Dorchester prison reveal 190 homes and a museum in the pipeline. Previous plans for the prison – built in 1885 and closed in 2013 – have included transforming the Victorian building into a hotel. The BBC has the full story.
  6. Scottish prisons budget cut by almost £40m as alternatives get funding boost. Under the draft budget unveiled by Finance Secretary John Swinney, the Scottish Prison Service will see its budget drop from £396.2m to £357.2m in 2016-17. Holyrood has more.


A bad week for prison staff  

    • 12 inmates moved after riot at Winchester prison that left six staff injured. The Ministry of Justice said about 20 prisoners were involved in the disturbance at the Category B prison on Sunday. The BBC has more.
    • A prison riot involving 20 inmates in Chelmsford left members of staff needing hospital treatment. Eight prison officers were injured in seven fights that broke out at the Spingfield prison last week. The Essex Chronicle has the full story.
    • Prison staff taken to hospital after Swifen Hall disorder. The BBC reports that two staff – who suffered head injuries – were taken to hospital and more were injured after being attacked by inmates brandishing table legs as weapons.



In other news  

Inmate contest brings holiday cheer to Brazil prison500 inmates ring in the holidays at Rio de Janeiro’s Nelson Hungria prison with religious plays and a cell-decorating contest. The inmates, who are serving time for offenses from burglary to homicide, spent weeks decking out the cell blocks with holiday decorations they made from objects they have access to behind bars. The Daily Mail has the story.

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