Prisons in the press – 8 January

Drones, Islamic radicals, legal highs and more in the news

Credit: user NT4936

Credit: user NT4936


Prisons in the press brings you the best articles from the past week to keep you up-to-date on prison news. This first edition of the New Year covers the past three weeks. 


Hot off the press

  1. Hundreds released in error: over 500 prisoners in England and Wales have been released early by mistake over the past decade according to Ministry of Justice figures obtained under a Freedom of Information request. In 2014-15, just under 50 suspected or convicted criminals were erroneously freed.
  2. Islamist extremists recruiting behind bars: Chief Prison Inspector Nick Hardwick has warned of the growing threat of Islamic fundamentalists recruiting vulnerable prisoners. He said that some of the gangs were trying to use their faith to as a cover for violence and intimidation at a time when there are increasing numbers of Muslims behind bars.
  3. Ambulance prison visits: There has been a 40 per cent rise in the number of ambulance call-outs to prisons in the past two years with legal highs being blamed for much of the increase. Inmates have reportedly dubbed the vehicles ‘mambulances’ after a cannabis-like drug called Black Mamba.
  4. “Most dangerous jail” inspection and attacks: After being labelled the “most dangerous jail” in the UK, inspectors returned to Northern Ireland’s Maghaberry prison  for a follow-up visit. Separately it was revealed that 11 officers had been attacked at the jail in the past two months.
  5. Prisoner force-fed legal highs: A video of a prisoner rolling around the floor in agony after being force-fed legal highs to repay a drug debt has emerged. The inmate at HMP Onley was given a combination of Spice and Black Mamba and then suffered a seizure as others watched and filmed.
  6. LGBT jail? The mother of a sex change glamour model who was detained in a Bristol jail has called for the first prison for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) offenders in Britain to be built.
  7. Drug drone crash lands: A drone carrying cannabis, mobile phones and chargers crashed into the exercise yard of HMP Bullingdon in Oxfordshire. This follows at least 10 other crashes in the first six months of 2015. A smartphone will sell for between £800 and £1,000 inside prison.
  8. Bare-knuckle video: A video showing two men engaged in a bloody fist-fight inside a cell in HMP Rochester was posted on YouTube with the caption: “gypsy boy fighting bigger weight & gypsy boy wins”. The footage is filmed on a mobile as other inmates stand around watching.


News in context: Muslims in British prisons  

Chief Inspector of Prisons Nick Hardwick has warned that Islamic radicals may be stepping up recruitment efforts in British jails. The number of Muslim prisoners has risen by 120 per cent since 2002 to 12,600 according to The Express.

Muslims represent only 4.7 per cent of the population in England and Wales yet one in seven prisoners (14 per cent). The dramatic rise in Muslim prisoners prompted calls for ministers to investigate whether police and the courts are treating Muslims more harshly, with some suggesting the rise is due to Islamophobia. Some research suggests around one-third of Muslim inmates are from Caribbean or African backgrounds.

In some jails the proportion of Islamic inmates is more than one-third, and in Whitemoor, a high-security prison in Cambridgeshire, it is over 40 per cent.

A recent report on Whitemoor said a Muslim radical group were “profoundly affecting the social nature of the jail – and disrupting established hierarchies”.


In other news  

World’s longest-running fugitive: John Patrick Hannan holds the record for the longest escape from custody after climbing over the walls of a prison in Dorset 60 years ago. Technically he is still a wanted man, but police are not actively searching for him despite rumours that he lives in his native Ireland.


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