HMP Pentonville and HMP Bedford

Proof that the prison system is crumbling?

Category B HMP Bedford Prison. Image: LawPages

Category B HMP Bedford Prison. Image: LawPages

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In the space of 24 hours a riot at HMP Bedford and two escapees from HMP Pentonville drew the country’s attention to the UK’s struggling prison estate.

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HMP PENTONVILLE: What we know

Two prisoners were discovered missing on the morning of Monday 7th November when staff found mannequins in their beds.

It is believed that 31-year-old James Whitlock and 28-year-old Matthew Baker used diamond-tipped cutting equipment smuggled in by drone to break through cell bars before lowering themselves down a 20ft wall with a rope made from sheets.

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Baker was on remand awaiting sentencing after being found guilty two weeks ago of the attempted murder of a man at a flat in Dagenham. He was due to be sentenced Friday.

Whitlock was also on remand after being charged with conspiracy to burgle more than 19 ATMs between December 2015 and August 2016.

This comes just weeks after officers and paramedics were called to Pentonville to treat three prisoners with stab wounds. 21-year-old Jamal Mahmoud was pronounced dead at the scene and two others, aged 21 and 30, were taken to hospital.

Former chief inspector of prisons, Nick Hardwick, noted in the latest inspectorate’s report of the prison “most prisoners felt unsafe; levels of violence were much higher than in similar prisons and had almost doubled since the last inspection”.

The former Justice Secretary, Michael Gove, described Pentonville last year as “the most dramatic example of failure” within the prisons estate.

Commenting on Monday’s events, the Shadow justice minister Yasmin Quershi said: “The past 24 hours have provided yet more evidence of the crisis in our prison estate”.

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PENTONVILLE IN NUMBERS:

  • Certified Normal Accommodation: 909
  • Current Population: 1,264
  • Overcrowding: 139%
  • Assaults: 421
  • Serious Assaults: 36
  • Incidents of self harm: 309

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HMP BEDFORD: What we know

Specially trained officers were called to HMP Bedford around 5pm Sunday afternoon.

Category B HMP Bedford Prison. Image: LawPages

Category B HMP Bedford Prison. Image: LawPages

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The riot, which reportedly saw up to 200 inmates out of cells and running around the jail lasted six hours. Three men were arrested in connection with the unrest and up to 60 inmates were removed from prison.

Mobile phone footage of a prison emerged reportedly showing the riot inside the Category B prison in Bedford town centre. Prisoners can been seen out of their cells and running up and down the prison’s gangways.

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Damage caused by prisoners who were involved in the riot will cost at least £1m to fix, the BBC has been told.

Sky News reported on Monday that a prison official said batched of inmates would be transferred from the jail “throughout the day”. In the meantime other prisoners, it has been claimed, have been looked in their cells for 46 hours and visits denied.

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This comes just months after the Chief Inspector of Prisons found inmates suffered an increase in the use of force against them; a rise in suicides and self harm and sometimes living in crowded and “unsafe” living conditions.

Inspectors add: “The stark reality is that prisoners told us it was easier to get illegal drugs in the prison than it is to get clothes or sheets.”

Read more of HMP Bedford’s latest report here.

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HMP BEDFORD IN NUMBERS:

  • Certified Normal Accommodation: 332
  • Current Population: 480
  • Overcrowding: 149%
  • Assaults: 100
  • Serious Assaults: 15
  • Incidents of self harm: 222

 

*Figures collated from the Howard League; Latest HM Inspectorate report 2015; HMP Inspectorate 2016Safety in custody quarterly update



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