Prisons in the press – 29 April

Books, deaths and inmates earning Duke of Edinburgh awards

... Image: George Redgrave

The Guardian’s visit to a prison this week shows the powers of books to bring people together. Image: George Redgrave

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

A prisoner is dying every day as deaths, assaults and self-injury in prisons continue to rise. Prisons in England and Wales are becoming increasingly violent and dangerous, figures seen by the Howard League for Penal Reform reveal.


Revealed this week

  1. Flagship London private prison struggles to recruit staff. Serco-run Thameside pays significantly less than state prisons, say workers. The FT has the story.
  2. Prison officer attacked at Northumberland jail. An internal investigation is under way at HMP Northumberland after an inmate assaulted a prison officer at the weekend The Northumberland Gazette has more.
  3. Inverness community council gathers opposition to prison. The Socttish Prisons Service said it intends to submit plans to build a new prison at Milton Leys in Inverness this summer that would replace the 112 year old Inverness Prison. The BBC has the story 
  4. Prisoner jailed after trying to smuggle up to £8,000 of drugs into jail by hiding them in his backside. The drugs were found at Magilligan Prison after sniffer dogs indicated the man might be carrying a stash. Belfast Live has more.
  5. Charity calls for prison officers to receive training to spot ADHD. This comes after the charity ADD-NI said at least 70 per cent of young people in Hydebank Young Offenders Unit have the behavioural disorder. The Belfast Telegraph has the story.
  6. Lethal weapon found at Birmingham Prison made from craft tool sold inside jail. Match-cutter withdrawn from jail’s shop after worried prison officer raised the alarm. Read more here.


Prison inspection findings this week

  1. York women’s prison threatened with closure praised by experts. The Independent Monitorinh Board said Askham Grange Open Prison “functions well” despite the uncertainty over its future. A date has not yet been set for its closure. York Press has more.
  2. Safety needs to be “addressed urgently” at Leeds prison. Inspectors are concerned about the rise in violence at HMP Leeds and found that safety had deteriorated. The Telegraph and Argus has the story. The Yorkshire Post found that 32 assaults took place at Leeds prison every month as legal high use soars.


News in context: Howard League findings 

According to figures published by the Ministry of Justice this week, 290 people died in prison custody in the 12 months to March 2016 – an increase of 51 compared to the previous year.

They include 100 men and women who took their own lives. The number of people dying by suicide in prisons has almost doubled in the last three years.


howardleague 91

91 men and women died in prisons during the first three months of 2016 – an average of one death per day. The Howard League reports that this is the highest number seen in a single quarter.

There were over 32,000 incidents of self-injury and 20,000 assaults recorded in prisons during 2015. Prison staff were assaulted almost 5,000 times during 2015.

Frances Crook, Chief Executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform said:

“These shocking statistics spell out the scale of the problems in a prison system that is failing after years of rising numbers, chronic overcrowding and deep staff cuts.

“We are hearing a lot of fine talk from the government about how things will be put right, but at the moment there appears to be no action.

“Meanwhile, people are dying. How many more people will die before something is done?” 



In other news 

Inmates at Bridgend Parc Prison are helping their children gain a Duke of Edinburgh’s Award. Three prisoners gained a DofE Leadership award in 2015 for their efforts, while a new cohort of inmates started towards the Award last month. WalesOnline has the story.

Inside stories from a prison book group. From The Hunger Games to Zadie Smith: this week’s visit by The Guardian to HMP Thameside’s weekly event reveals just how powerfully books can bring people together. Read more here.


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