Prisons in the press – 16 December

Dangerous private prisons and the jail that will soon be student digs


A famous cell key goes up for sale. Image: Ke Dickson


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

Privatisation of probation service has left public at greater risk, says Chief inspector of probation Dame Glenys Stacey. According to the official watchdog some offenders were not seen for weeks or months and others were lost in the system altogether. The Guardian has the full story.


Revealed this week

  1. “Chronic” need for homes for prison leavers in Wales. Prison Link Cymru had 1,099 referrals in 2015-16 and said some ex-offenders were living rough for up to a year before finding suitable accommodation. Workers at the charity claim that investment in housing would be cheaper than jailing homeless repeat offenders. The BBC has more.
  2. Prisons brought to brink of collapse by Tory lord chancellors, says ex-boss. Phil Wheatley blames Gove, Clarke and Grayling for ‘operational disaster’ that will take years to put right. The Guardian has more.
  3. Forget sniff dogs. To stop drug abuse in prison, fight the real enemy – boredom. Charlie Gilmour writes in the New Statesman, “Since I left prison in 2011, the system has had £900m sucked out of it. No wonder officers are struggling to control drug use.” Read more here.


The prisons that hit the headlines   

  1. Cardiff prison needs to take its drug problem but is stable despite “challenging times”, a report has said. Challenges included staff shortages and increased use of new psychoactive substances, leading to more “unpredictable and violent behaviour”. The BBC has more. We covered the story here.
  2. Inside Strangeways: Prison officer reveals inmates have no respect for authority, are violent to fellow inmates and staff, and also take drugs such as spice. He adds that staff at the Manchester prison are living in fear of violence and nothing is being done to stop inmates using drugs. The Manchester Evening News has the full story.
  3. New governor and deputy for Lewes Prison as it is placed in special measures. The National Offender Management Service recommended Lewes is placed in special measures after a six-hour rampage by inmates in October where some 125 inmates were sent to other prisons while the damage was repaired. The Argus has more.
  4. Dana prison to become student accommodation. Plans for the transformation of Shrewsbury’s historic Dana prison could get the go-ahead next week when Shropshire Council planners meet. The Shropshire Star has more.   


In context

In her most damning report Chief inspector of probation Dame Glenys Stacey said that a recent inspection of probation work in the north of London found a simple, unacceptable lack of management attention to whether offenders turned up to appointments, reports the Guardian.

Her inspection report, published on Thursday, said probation services in north London have deteriorated since a community rehabilitation company took over the supervision of medium- to low-risk offenders in 2014 and was now poorer than any other area that had been inspected this year.

Dame Glenys Stacey, HM Chief Inspector of Probation. Image:

Dame Glenys Stacey, HM Chief Inspector of Probation. Image:

“A combination of unmanageable caseloads, inexperienced officers, extremely poor oversight and a lack of senior management focus and control meant some offenders were not seen for weeks or months, and some were lost in system altogether”, concluded the report.

Stacey said:
“Delivering probation services in London is never an easy task, but services have deteriorated of late, largely due to the poor performance of the London Community Rehabilitation Company. Services are now well below what people rightly expect, and the city is more at risk as a result.”

The Guardian has the full story.


In other news

Oscar Wilde’s prison cell key goes up for sale and his cell door goes on display. The iron key that was used to lock Reading jail cell C.3.3 where the writer was imprisoned for homosexual offences, is to be sold at a Sotherby’s auction, the Guardian reports.

As well as this a full-length portrait of the author and his prison cell door from Reading Gaol, where Wilde was incarcerated from 1895 to 1897 will go on display at Tate Britain’s Queer British Art show. The BBC has more.


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