Prisons in the press – 20 January

Smuggled phones and cigarette bans behind bars

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... Image: Jeff Gitchel

Inmate caught with five mobile phones. Image: Jeff Gitchel

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

Watchdog calls for action over transgender prison deaths. Ombudsman says jails in England and Wales should be more flexible and proactive in managing such inmates. The Guardian has more.

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Revealed this week 

  1. Inmate from Tiverton caught with five mobile phones inside prison. Shaun Bennett was found with the smart phones, chargers and SIM cards shortly before he was due to be released from a three year sentence for burglary. The Exeter Express and Echo has the story.
  2. Eight inmates charged with prison mutiny at HMP Birmingham. Four men appeared before Birmingham Magistrates Court on 17 January accused of prison mutiny. The BBC has more.
  3. Prison cigarette ban backfires as prisoners turn to dangerous drug Spice instead. Smoking was outlawed at HMP Dartmoor in Devon last year, but it has led to a sharp increase in the usage of Spice. The Mirror has the story.
  4. Prison inmate’s death was ‘predictable and preventable’, inquest hears. Dean Saunders, an inmate at HMP Chelmsford, was 25 when he committed suicide in his cell, despite repeated warnings from his family that he was suicidal. ITV has more.

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Prisons that hit the headlines    

  1. Prison officers and prisoners at risk as Chelmsford Prison struggles to cope. A scathing report about Chelmsford Prison says staff and prisoners are being put in danger. Problems include staff shortages, bullying, self harm, crumbling buildings and poor healthcare. The Echo has more.
  2. Wrexham prison set to accept inmates on 27 February. The £212m category C “super-prison” HMP Berwyn can house 2,106 offenders, making it the largest in the UK. The BBC has the story.
  3. Revealed: How overcrowded Birmingham prison really is. On average HMP Birmingham had 1,408 prisoners behind its bars each day in 2016, 33 per cent more prisoners than it could safely accommodate last year. The Birmingham Mail has more.

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In context

The deaths at the beginning of January of several transgender prisoners underline the need for jails to be more flexible and proactive in managing such inmates, the Guardian reports.

Nigel Newcomen, the prisons and probation ombudsman, said his office has historically received few complaints from prisoners identifying themselves as transgender and has investigated relatively few deaths in custody

However, the numbers have been climbing more recently, he said. “These events made the need to address the issue all the more pressing,” he added.

He published a bulletin on lessons that could be learned from investigations into five deaths and 33 complaints between 2008 and August 2016.

About 80 transgender individuals are believed to be in jails in England and Wales.

The Guardian has the story.

In other news

“Some see jail as a safe place”: ex-prisoner’s scheme breaks cycle of reoffending. A community centre in Leeds works with prisoners before and after their release to help them adjust to life outside, as well as improve the local area. The Guardian has more.
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