Prisons in the press – 1 April

Chronic overcrowding and a house with its own jail cell

... Image: Jumilla

Converting prison cells will lead to further overcrowding, say campaigners. Image: Jumilla

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

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Hot off the press

West Midlands jail announces it is to convert single cells into double to make room for 500 extra inmates. HMP Oakwood which is operated by G4S will see its official operating capacity rise by almost a third from July. The Independent has the story.

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Revealed this week

  1. More disciplinary incidents at Sheppey’s Swaleside prison than any other in South East. Ministry of Justice figures obtained by the Howard League reveal the jail has become progressively worse for inmate behaviour over the past four years. Kent Online has more.
  2. Plans for Shrewsbury prison are “over-development”. Councillor Alan Mosley says plans to create student flats, a fitness centre and restaurant at Shropshire’s former Dana prison will be “massive additions to the already dire problems”. The Shropshire Star has the story.
  3. Prisoners take to the roof in protest. Two inmates at Guys Marsh Prison in Dorset gained access to the roof on Monday but were soon securely back in their cells. The BBC has more.
  4. Fires at Dorset Young Offenders Institute. Fire and ambulance services were called to Portland Prison at the Grove Wednesday afternoon as four prisoners climbed onto netting and started cell fires. The Dorset Echo has the story.
  5. Spanish system cutting re-offending rates. The BBC’s Nick Beake travels to southern Spain to see how a new approach to youth justice is rehabilitating young offenders. Watch the report here.

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Scottish jails

  1. New prison in the pipeline for Inverness. The Scottish Prison Service revealed plans to submit an application for a new jail at Milton of Leys in Inverness. HMP Highland would replace the 112-year-old Inverness Prison near the city centre. Scottish Legal News has more.
  2. Drugs smuggled into Scottish prisons via post. New figures reveal that thousands of pounds worth of substances, including heroin, cannabis and cocaine have been seized from Tayside jails – with dozens of packages being sent through the post. The Tele has the story.

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News in context: Prison overcrowding

This week The Independent reported HMP Oakwood announced that single cells in the prison run by G4S would be converted to double to accommodate 500 extra inmates.

The news prompted campaigners to denounce the move as a recipe for overcrowding and violence as inmates at the UK’s largest privately-run jail will start sharing cells from this summer.

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... Image: Zlatko Vickovic

HMP Oakwood’s plan could lead to further overcrowding and increased violence. Image: Zlatko Vickovic

The increase will bring the number of prisoners held at the jail from 1,600 to 2,106.

Citing the prison’s previous problems – a year after the jail opened inspectors reported it was easier for inmates to obtain drugs than a bar of soap – campaigners…

Andrew Neilson, director of campaigns at the Howard League for Penal Reform said:

“Bloating this prison with 500 more men, many of whom will be forced to share cells that were built for one, will put even more pressure on its staff and resources.

“The lessons from other overcrowded prisons are clear. When education, work and training opportunities become scarce and prisoners spend longer locked in their cells, violence rises.

A Ministry of Justice spokesperson said:

“We are committed to making the best use of our prison estate. We will never compromise on the safety of our staff or prisoners.

The Independent has the full story.

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In other news 

Looking for a house with a prison cell? A 19th Century Victorian court house, which is also part police station is up for auction. The court house was built in 1861 and used to deal with criminals until as recently as 40 years ago. Western Daily Press has more.

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