Prisons in the press – 23 December

After the Birmingham prison riots and HMP Bristol’s Christmas dinner


Image: Ian Turk Christmas Pudding

Image: Ian Turk Christmas Pudding

Prisons in the press brings you the best articles from the past week to keep you up-to-date on prison news.



Investigation launched after mass unrest at Swaleside jail. The Prison Service says the 60 inmates involved in the six-hour incident “surrendered and were back in cells by 1am”.

Sky News reports that some 60 inmates took control of a landing on a wing at HMP Swaleside at 7pm on Thursday, promtping the dispatch of a specialist “Tornado” squad trained in advanced control and restraint techniques. Sky News has more.

Hot off the press

Truss warns prison problems “will not be resolved soon” after riots. The Secretary of State for Justice said the priority was to make jails “stable and safe” while the government went ahead with reforms. The BBC has the story.


After the HMP Birmingham riots 

  1. HMP Birmingham riot repairs “will cost £2m”, the BBC understands. All the locks will be replaced and officials remain concerned that copies may be made of a set of keys which were taken during the disturbance. The BBC has more.
  2. Prison riots across the UK are being fuelled by drones dropping drugs and phones into jails – and guards are powerless to stop it. According to inmates, drugs are a major factor in the riots – particularly Black mamba, a form of synthetic cannabis. The Daily Star has more.
  3. Hull prison “on brink of riot” after inmates arrive from Birmingham. Prison Officers’ Association says jail is in lockdown after 15 inmates involved in Birmingham riot set fire to CCTV cameras. The Guardian has more.
  4. Lincoln prison could suffer “copycat uproar” in wake of Birmingham riot. More than 240 inmates had to be transferred following the riot on Friday and the transfer has raised concerns for HMP Lincoln. Lincolnshire Live has more.
  5. Inmates barricaded themselves into Cardiff prison cell “in protest of move from Birmingham”. Authorities said it was a minor incident which was quickly resolved by prison staff and that nobody was injured. Wales Online has the story.


Revealed this week   

  1. Graduates are being encouraged to become prison officers straight out of university. Those that take part will earn a salary and undertake a masters degree programme while working alongside jail staff. Sky News has the story.
  2. HMP Nottingham prison officer arrested after investigation. A 28-year-old man has been arrested by Nottinghamshire Police on suspicion of conspiracy to cause actual bodily harm and seven others have been suspended. The BBC has the full story.
  3. Exeter Prison more crowded and unruly than riot-hit HMP Birmingham. The Exeter Express and Echo’s analysis of the latest prison statistics shows that inmates at Exeter broke the rules more often than fellow prisoners in Birmingham last spring. Read more here.
  4. Drugs, apathy and guards asleep on the job: What it’s like in Britain’s “shambolic” prisons. Nobody who has served time in a British prison over the last decade will be at all surprised by the system’s many failings, writes Jonathan Robinson for The Telegraph.


In context

Solving problems in England’s jails will take months or longer, the justice secretary has warned, following last Friday’s riot at Birmingham prison.

Liz Truss said the priority was to make jails “stable and safe” while the government went ahead with reforms.

She told MPs 380 inmates had been moved from HMP Birmingham after the riot.

liz truss female lord high chancellor

Liz Truss: Justice Secretary Image: Number 10

Ms Truss said:

“The issues in our prisons are long-standing and they are not going to be completely solved in weeks or even months. ”

Ms Truss said levels of violence were “too high in our prisons” and she said there were “very concerning” levels of self-harm and deaths in custody. Action was being taken against “drugs, drones and phones”, she said.

The BBC has the full story. 


In other news

From prison to profit – Janet Powell served six months in prison but now runs a florist. The stigma of a custodial sentence can make finding a job impossible but women who are taught to set up their own business are bucking the trend. The BBC has the full story.

HMP Bristol’s Christmas dinner menu – featuring halal chicken. The main course on Christmas Day will be a choice of halal half roast chicken, gammon steak and pineapple or vegetable schnitzel, followed by Christmas pudding with vanilla sauce and fresh fruit. The Bristol Post has more.


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