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Undercover report reveals mismanagement in British prison

14 Feb 2017 | By NewsBytes Desk

An undercover report has revealed shocking details of mismanagement in one of Britain's largest prisons, HMP Northumberland.

Among the revelations were rampant drug abuse, faulty safety and control systems and even a hole in an internal security fence.

The Ministry of Justice has vowed to conduct an investigation into the allegations.

Prison officers revealed that the jail is effectively in control of the inmates.

In context: Britain's abysmal prison system

BackgroundHMP Northumberland

HMP Northumberland is one of Britain's largest prisons and houses 1348 male inmates. It was formerly two separate prison complexes, which were merged in 2011.

Reeling under budgetary constraints, the government privatized the prison management in 2013, transferring control to Sodexo Justice Services.

Sodexo pledged the lowest bid, vowing to save £130 million by cutting 200 prison jobs including 96 prison officer posts.

Officers decry budget cuts

In December 2013, prison staff at Northumberland lambasted the idea of budget and job cuts saying lesser staff would eventually lead to chaos and disorder in the prison. However, their protests were ignored.
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Apathy and poor conditions

ConditionsApathy and poor conditions

HMP Northumberland is a training prison to give inmates vocational training so they can reintegrate into society upon release.

However, in "employability skill classes", prisoners were handed out children's colouring books and were seen coloring cartoon characters while severely intoxicated.

Inmates were also found roaming freely at nights as many of the cell locks were malfunctioning.

Drug abuseRampant drug abuse

Footage revealed that prisoners used the hole in the internal security fence to collect drugs from outside the prison. Officers routinely find large amounts of "spice", a synthetic form of cannabis, however they never lock-down the prison for more searches as protocol demands.

In one case, an officer accidentally inhaled prisoners' smoke, collapsing to the ground having convulsions.

Most prisoners were incapacitated on drugs.

Spice: A prison killer

Spice is a synthetic version of cannabis which is smoked. Data revealed that spice has been responsible for an average of 30 prison deaths per year in Britain. Spice is legal, as it is made with substances that are currently outside the purview of drug-laws.

StaffPrison staff feel unsafe

Prison officers confessed to having "lost control of the jail." Inmates routinely threaten officers, who are often left alone in charge of several prisoners.

One of the officers said that guards were afraid to confront prisoners as they were out-numbered and did not believe back up would arrive on time.

He added that, "you will be assaulted in your career...I don't feel safe, ever"

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14 Feb 2017Undercover report reveals mismanagement in British prison

ActionMinistry of Justice vows to take action

The Ministry of Justice clarified that the government was going to invest an additional £100 million annually, saying they "will not hesitate to take action when standards fall short."

Sodexo, which manages the prisons said "We will investigate where necessary and take appropriate action."

Novus, which provides employability skills classes at HMP Northumberland said they took the feedback seriously and would address the issue.