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This February, what has been dubbed as the ‘poster-child’ of UK super prisons opened in Wrexham. HMP Berwyn cost £250m to build and has a capacity of 2,106 prisoners – 500 more than the biggest prison prior to this in England and Wales was built to hold. The prison service has come under increasing pressure in recent years due to overcrowding, with assaults on staff and suicides in prison on the rise.

 

The UK government has pledged to spend £1.3 billion on new prisons, and after the riots in Birmingham last year, Justice Secretary Lizz Truss said the new Welsh prison “will help to reduce overcrowding across the estate”. Lizz Truss also believes that dogs can scare away droids which are dropping drugs into prisons…

 

This poster-child prison is all well and good, but what about the state of the current prisons? This week Medway youth jail was rated inadequate by Ofsted inspectors – a quarter of inmates felt unsafe. The secure training centre was taken over by Her Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service last July – the prison was previously run by G4S.

 

The report details how young inmates are able to watch sexually explicit content on TV, and the managers are yet to put measures in place to prevent this. The safety of young people, effectiveness of leaders and managers and the promotion of positive behaviours is inadequate – though progress has been made since their previous visit whilst the centre was run by G4S, following a BBC Panorama undercover filming exposed staff mistreating and abusing inmates.

 

The centre is only at 50% capacity: when the numbers rose earlier this year – the use of physical restraint and fights increased.

 

The report says the majority of the workforce was former G4S employees but their staff employment histories and past performance records have not been made available to the current governor. “This means that staff who may have experienced disciplinary or capability measures no longer have this information on their employment records. This is a serious shortfall,” says the Ofsted report. G4S have stated that they are mystified by this.

 

This comes only 2 months after Swinfen Hall prison in Staffordshire was exposed for leaving prisoners in ‘squalid’ cells; this being the very prison where riots occurred in 2015 following a TB outbreak in the prison. Our own Suezanne King spoke about the outbreak on BBC West Midlands, and described the effect it had upon several of our clients, this can be seen below:

 

https://www.facebook.com/SMQLegal/videos/773459582772057/

Following an inspection in 2015, a programme of window repairs was reported, but the HM Inspectorate of Prisons said the work only started in October last year, more than 180 cells on three wings had windows without glass, according to the Watchdog; it was found that living conditions had deteriorated since the previous inspection. A survey found that only 27% of prisoners said they could have a daily shower. HMIP found the jail was "no longer safe enough" after a "significant deterioration" in almost all areas. Levels of violence had increased and some prisoners who felt unsafe were "self-isolating".

 

This comes as news breaks of G4S bosses receiving more than £4.8 million in bonuses.

 

These issues have of course led to an increase in violent behaviour in prisons, as inmates are increasingly frustrated with the conditions. Drugs related matters are also at a high as management struggle to control the influx of drugs into prison.

 

If a loved one is experiencing issues in prison of any kind, please do not hesitate to contact us for advice or assistance.

 

 

Heulwen

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