Prisons in the press – 12 August

Phone seizures, prison closures and a look back at Pentonville’s past 

... Image: Kevin

Phone seizures in prisons across the UK on the rise. Image: Kevin

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

Crackdown launched as phone seizures in prisons rise in England and Wales. Almost 15,000 handsets and SIM cards were taken from jails in 2015, rising from 9,745 in 2014 and 7,400 in 2013. The BBC has the story.

Revealed this week

  1. Prison inspector praises immigration centre for families set for closure. “Groundbreaking” Cedars produced best outcomes for detainees, Peter Clarke says in report on immigration detention centre. The Guardian has more.
  2. Inmates able to access pornography at “controversial” youth prison. The G4S run Medway Secure Training Centre in Rochester was again came under fire after Ofsted concluded the stability of the facility had “been sorely undermined by a combination of significant factors”. The Telegraph has the story.
  3. Prison governor is hospitalised after a “brutal unprovoked” attack by an inmate. Paul Cawkwell, governor of the Category C HMP Wayland in Norfolk, was speaking to an inmate in the prison’s canteen when he was attacked and beaten. MailOnline has more.
  4. Durham Prison “was a holiday camp” compared to abuse-inquiry Kirklevington. A former inmate of a North-East youth detention centre who suffered brutal abuse at the hands of guards in the 1980s is urging others to come forward. The Northern Echo has the story.
  5. Prison inmate set fire to cell three times and told prison officers he had Aids and would spit in their faces. HMP Swansea inmate Hussain Sabriye set fire to his cell three times, once while his cellmate was asleep and told staff he was going to blow them up. The South Wales Evening Post has more.
  6. Inmates stuck in Stafford prison past release date. Nearly 40 prisoners are being forced to stay inside years past their release date as a parole board needs to agree that they are no longer a danger, something the Independent Monitoring Board has found boards are hesitant to do. The Express and Star has more.
  7. Drugs and not enough staff lead to Portland prison unrest. Illicit packages thrown over the walls of a prison are fuelling gang activity and violence, a report by the Independent Monitoring Board has found. The BBC has the story.


In context

The government is launching a new crackdown to target inmates using mobiles to run criminal operations/ Prison authorities will use legal powers to curb mobile use.

Under the measures, introduced in the Serious Crime Act 2015, provision governors will no longer have to physically find phones or deploy blocking technology to stop them being used.
Instead prison staff will be able to get the phones cut off remotely by producing evidence that a given number is being used illicitly.
Justice Secretary Liz Truss said:
“We are determined to do all we can to prevent prisoners having access to mobile phones. We are stepping up measures to find and block them and empowering prison offices to take action.”
The new powers – which took effect last week – will be overseen by the Investigatory Powers Commissioner.


In comment 

The prison service has been cut to the bone and we struggle to keep control. An anonymous public servants tells The Guardian that “we’re as outraged as you” at rising levels of violence and self harm “but we don’t have the numbers to maintain a safe environment”. Read more here.

Women are dying in jails they should not have been sent to. The latest statistics show suicide rates among female prisoners are rising again and The Guardian’s Eric Allison urges Theresa May and new justice secretary Elizabeth Truss to follow Scotland’s example and scrap large women’s jails. Read more here.


In other news

Former prison to become training facility for staff, if it gets the green light. Goudhurst’s prison in Kent was closed in January 2015 and the new plans submitted to Tunbridge Wells Borough Council would allow up to 60 attendees to receive training as police and probation officers. The Kent&Sussex Courier has more.

Executions at Pentonville Prison: Looking back on capital punishment in Caledonian Road. The Islington Gazette explores the past of the 174 year old prison, taking a look at a few of 121 inmates who, in the 20th Century had a far more daunting fate than the poor conditions that present day inmates suffer. Read more here.


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