Prisons in the press – 7 October

Probation overhaul criticised, more prison officers and trouble at Maghaberry

WTF by a prisoner called Peter at HMP Dovegate. Source: Prison Watch UK

WTF by a prisoner called Peter at HMP Dovegate. Source: Prison Watch UK

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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

The government’s privatisation of the probation service in England and Wales has come under fire from two separate watchdogs. A joint report from HM Inspectorate of Probation and HM Inspectorate of Prisons concluded that not enough was being done to help prisoners after they leave prison. It found that not one of 86 offenders studied ‘had any help in relation to training, education or employment’. In-depth report below. The Independent has more here.

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Revealed this week

  1. Government pledges 400 extra prison officers for country’s toughest jails: Justice Secretary Liz Truss has pledged £14m to pay for 400 prison officers. There have been over 5,000 attacks on prison staff in the last 12 months after drastic cuts in the number of guards in recent years. The new working practices will see officers supervising around six prisoners each.The extra officers will be targeted at Chelmsford, Leeds, Guys Marsh, Nottingham, Winchester, Exeter, Liverpool, Eastwood Park, Wayland and Moorland prisons. The Independent has more here.
  2. Guards at London prison ‘unable to identify suspected extremists’: Peter Clarke, the chief inspector of prisons, said that some staff at the unfortunately-named Isis jail in south-east London were failing to tackle the risks of radicalisation. In other criticisms, Mr Clarke says that Isis, which opened only six years ago, is blighted by high levels of violence with 200 fights or assaults during 2105 with “too many” prisoners feeling unsafe. The Evening Standard has more here.
  3. Prison cell murder accused took ‘Spice’: A prisoner accused of murdering his cellmate with a flat screen TV was suspected to have taken a synthetic high a court heard. Jordan Palmer admits killing Terrence Ojuederie, 42, in their cell at HMP Peterborough but denies it was murder. The BBC has more here.
  4. Prison wrong to withdraw suicide Mom’s anti-psychotic medication: Professor Seena Fazel, a consultant forensic psychiatrist, told a Belfast court that Hydebank prison was wrong to withdraw the medication of 23-year-old Frances McKeown, who went on to commit suicide. Staff suspected she may have been stockpiling it or selling it to other inmates. The Belfast Telegraph has more here.
  5. More foreign prisoners face deportation: More of the roughly 10,000 foreign nationals in Britain’s prisons may face deportation according to The Express.

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The prisons that hit the headlines   

  1. Drugs amnesty after lethal “blue plague” deaths: Prisoners at HMP Maghaberry in Northern Ireland were given the chance to give up illegal drugs without punishment following a lethal ‘blue plague’ of drugs. The fake diazepam pills have been linked to the death of scores in Scotland including the 32-year-old son of loyalist Johnny ‘Mad Dog’ Adair. Belfast Live has more here.
  2. Man who blinded himself in prison speaks out: A mentally ill prisoner at the same prison who blinded himself and injured his groin area as prison officers watched has spoken to the BBC. Sean Lynch said he misses seeing his family smile and seeing their happiness. The BBC has more here.
  3. Mysterious opening cell doors lead to riot: Prison staff at the same prison in Northern Ireland were put at “serious risk” when the cell doors of around 100 prisoners opened unexpectedly due to an electrical fault. Deliberate fires were started in other wings of the high security jail as inmates ran riot while the small number of staff on duty quickly retreated behind security gates. The Newsletter has more here.

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In context

A joint report from HM Inspectorate of Probation and HM Inspectorate of Prisons found that the government’s privatisation of probation services is failing ex-prisoners and putting the public put at risk.

Former Justice Secretary Chris Grayling’s overhaul of the probation service created the National Probation Service (NPS) to deal with high-risk offenders. The rest of the work was assigned to 21 Community Rehabilitation Companies (CRCs). All prisoners sentenced to a year or less are now supervised for 12 months on release.

The effect of the changes was to increase the number of people on probation by 50,000 or around 25 per cent.

But the report found that not one of 86 offenders studied “had any help in relation to training, education or employment”.

While the picture was more positive for women leaving prison, the report said many probation officers held “an almost fatalistic acceptance of the likelihood of failure”.

Here are some key facts about probation from the report.

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Source: HM Inspectorate of Probation and HM Inspectorate of Prisons

Source: HM Inspectorate of Probation and HM Inspectorate of Prisons

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Inspectors said re-offending rates among the former prisoners were “concerning” and the risk of harm they posed was not always recognised, meaning victims – particularly in cases of domestic abuse – were not always protected.

A quarter of the prisoners in the inspection sample had already re-offended or for failed to keep appointments under their licences.

Here are the charts from the report that tell the story in pictures, which once again can be found here.

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In other news

‘Prison Houdini’ to be released after 36 years after being jailed for only four: A Florida man called Mark DeFriest was jailed for four years in 1980 for stealing his father’s tools, but subsequent sentences following 13 escape attempts mean he is only being released from prison now. He used LSD from a pyschiatric hospital’s dispensary to spike staff drinks and escape on his first attempt. The 56-year-old spent 27 years in solitary confinement as punishment for his many failed jailbreaks. The Daily Mail has more here.

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