Prisons in the press – 23 September

Prison violence at a “wholly unacceptable level” and the fashion labels that are reforming lives

Image: Ryan Carver

A UK organisation selling embroidery is transforming rehabilitation. Image: Ryan Carver

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

Prison violence at “wholly unacceptable” level, ombudsman finds. Official inquiry highlights a record six homicides and a 35 per cent increase in assaults involving weapons in 2015-2016. The Guardian has more.


Revealed this week

  1. Prison officer sentenced to a year behind bars. Dubbed the “black beauty” Anita Offe smuggled mobile phones and sim cards to prisoner Elijah Mochia, who wrote sent her a love poem, in Thameside Prison. MailOnline has more.
  2. Samaritans urges action on prison staffing after sharp rise in suicides. Charity says self-inflicted prison death rates in England and Wales is at the highest level in eight years as staff numbers fall. The Guardian has the story.
  3. Prison staff “not equipped to deal with” inmate blinding himself, the justice minister ruled. Claire Sugden also accepted that the Prison Ombudsman report into Sean Lynch’s treatment, which we featured last week, was “damning”. The BBC has more.
  4. Rise in deaths and sexual assaults at Cumbria prison are to be investigated by police. The operation was set up after reports of fears over safety at HMP Haverigg were reported. ITV has more.


The prisons that hit the headlines   

  1. Featherstone prison “among worst in country”, according to a national report. Staffordshire’s prison has lost almost 100 members of staff in four years while its population is at its highest level since records began in 1995. The Express and Star has more.
  2. Woodhill Prison accused of neglect by former inmate. Rob Nicol, who was an official “insider” at the prison which has seen eight suicides in a nine month period, and claimed a suicidal prisoner was ignored and even punished by staff. MK Citizen has more.
  3. 30 inmates removed from Lincoln Prison after day-long disturbance. Her Majesty’s Prison Service has said prisoners at HMP Lincoln collectively took “inappropriate” and disruptive action throughout Thursday 15 September, causing extensive damage to cells. The Lincolnite has the story.


In context

The Guardian reports that an official inquiry has criticised the “wholly unacceptable level of violence” in English and Welsh jails after a record six inmates were killed in 2015-2016.
A report by the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman into the six homicides also uncovered a 38 per cent rise in the number of assaults involving a blade or other weapon to 4,000.
The proportion of armed prison assaults has doubled from 10 per cent to 20 per cent over the last five years.
Prisons and Probation Ombudsman Nigel Newcomen. Image:

Prisons and Probation Ombudsman Nigel Newcomen. Image:

Nigel Newcomen, the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman, said that homicides were still rare in English and Welsh jails, but had increased in recent years:
“The killing of one prisoner by another in a supposedly secure prison environment is particularly shocking, and it is essential to seek out any lessons that might prevent these chilling occurrences in the future.”
Though he commented that the review of the eight homicide investigations he has carried out since 2013 showed they had little in common beyond their outcome, he added:

“What is clear is that the increased number of homicide is emblematic of the wholly unacceptable level of violence in our prisons.”

The Guardian has the full report.


In other news

The Guardian reports on the fashion labels that hire prisoners and help reform lives. From the Mexican business making tattooed bags to a UK organisation selling embroidery to Stella McCartney, social enterprises are working with prisoners. The use of prison labour by companies is commonplace in Mexico but similar initiatives are being tried and becoming more common in the UK, where companies are offering paid work to inmates. The Guardian has more.


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