Prisons in the press – 11 November

Riot, break-out and fascinating documentaries

... Image: Zlatko Vickovic

… Image: Zlatko Vickovic

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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 

Riot at HMP Bedford: about 230 inmates got out of their cells, seized keys, broke into medicine stores and started small fires causing £1m of damage at the Category B prison this week. Police and specially-trained officers from across the country were called in to control the riot and later dozens of inmates were moved to new prisons. We wrote about conditions at HMP Bedford previously. The BBC has more here

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Revealed this week 

  • Staffing: Ministry of Justice figures show that frontline prison officer numbers have fallen by more than a quarter in six and a half years. There has been a reduction of 6,335 people classed as “full-time equivalent” since March 2010 – or a 26 per cent fall. The East Lothian Courier has more here.
  • Transgender prisoners: One in four prisons in England and Wales are holding transgender inmates, an official report has revealed. Data collected in March and April showed that 33 of the 123 public and private prisons reported they had one or more transgender prisoners. The Telegraph has the story
  • Drone no-fly zone: Prison officials want drone manufacturers to hard code prison locations into their products to stop the devices being used in illicit contraband schemes. ZDNet has more here

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Prisons in the news 

  • Break-out and re-capture: Two prisoners, one of whom was recently found guilty of attempted murder, escaped from Pentonville prison in London. The pair used diamond-tipped cutting equipment to break through their cell bars before scaling an outer perimeter wall. They left makeshift mannequins in their beds to fool the guards. However, Matthew Baker, 28, who was in jail for stabbing a man 25 times, was recaptured in East London after three days. The other inmate, James Whitlock, 31, remains at large. The Guardian has the story here and here
  • Prison documentaries: Two documentaries have been aired highlighting the contraband being smuggled into prisons and the effects they have there. Channel 4’s The Secret Life of Prisons showed prisoners receiving drugs sprayed on to children’s drawings, mobile phones smuggled inside chocolate bars and violence rife behind bars. The Daily Mail could not resist covering the story. Separately, the BBC aired a programme called Breaking Into Prison showing how goods are smuggled in.  
  • Remand inmate dies at Maghaberry jail: A number of investigations have been launched into the death of the 44-year-old man, a remand inmate at Northern Ireland’s top security prison. The Northern Ireland Prison Service (NIPS) confirmed that a prisoner died on Saturday night. Prison authorities have not released any details about the man’s identity or how he died. The Belfast Telegraph has more here.  

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News in context 

Recent riots at prisons in Bedford and Lewes have highlighted the issue of violence behind bars. The latest statistics from the Ministry of Justice for prisons in England & Wales paint a grim figure. 

There were about 65 assaults per day in the 12 months to the end of June 2016. That makes for a total of almost 24,000 – a 34 per cent increase.

Assaults in men’s prisons have risen 69 per cent in only three years to a record high of nearly 23,000. Assaults in women’s prisons have risen 25 per cent in one year. 

The proportion of armed prison assaults has doubled from 10 per cent to 20 per cent over the last five years. There has been a 38 per cent rise in the number of assaults involving a blade or other weapon over the same period to 4,000. 

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Source: Wikimedia Commons

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Other news 

Princess in prison: The Duchess of Cambridge made a private visit to a women’s prison. Kate talked to staff and prisoners from HMP Eastwood Park, Gloucestershire, about mental health concerns, family breakdowns and treatment for addiction. Afterwards she went to The Nelson’s Trust Women’s Centre, an organisation which provides support to vulnerable women. The Evening Standard has more here

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