Ian Lavery, Labour MP for Wansbeck, urged Ministers to act over a dramatic increase in assaults on prison officer staff.
And speaking in the House of Commons, he highlighted staff cuts at HMP Northumberland, near Morpeth, which was transferred to private management 12 months ago.
Sodexo Justice Services now runs the prison after winning a 15-year contract worth an estimated £250 million.
It comes after a number of MPs raised concerns about working conditions in the nation’s prisons.
Work commissioned by the Prison Officers’ Association and conducted by academics warned of high levels of stress among prison staff, and found 65 per cent of prison officers often thought about quitting the job.
A Commons motion warning MPs are “deeply concerned at the findings of the report” was signed by Blyth Valley MP Ronnie Campbell and North Tyneside MP Mary Glindon as well as Mr Lavery.
The MPs urged the Government “to conduct an urgent inquiry into the prison system and the terms and conditions of those trying to professionally carry out an important public service under the most difficult of circumstances”.
Speaking in the Commons, Mr Lavery said: “The Prison Service is not only in crisis, but is a powder keg.
“Somebody must be held accountable because someone, somewhere will be seriously hurt in the Prison Service.
“Nine members of staff are assaulted daily, which means 3,400 a year, up 9.4 per cent.
“More dramatically, serious assaults on staff have increased by 36% since 2010.”
He highlighted the situation at HMP Northumberland, where around 50 inmates took over a wing in riots in March.
Mother who encouraged her young children to fight jihad jailed for five years
An “extremist” mother-of-six children, who took pictures of her toddler son with a toy gun and daydreamed about sending her eight-year-old brother to fight jihad, has been jailed for five years
by Ian Johnston Thursday 11 December 2014
Runa Khan revealed her radical views on Facebook, calling on fellow Muslim women to urge their male relatives to fight, and posted picture of a suicide vest.
She praised an article, entitled “Raising Mujahid Children”, that gave tips on how to prepare young children for jihad. Judge Peter Birts said the article was essentially “a manual in encouraging women to carry out jihad”.
Khan, 35, repeatedly spoke of her desperation to travel to Syria on WhatsApp messages, and unwittingly passed a route to the country to an undercover police officer. She also appeared to glorify the murder of Lee Rigby.
In a post on Facebook, Khan wrote: “Sisters, if you love your sons, husbands and brothers, prove it by sending them to fight for Allah. Don’t you want them to enter Jannah? Don’t you want them to prepare for you a palace…?”
When arrested, police found a photo of her two-year-old son with a toy rifle and a jihadist book on her phone, as well as images of her and her older children with a sword, Kingston Crown Court heard.
She also wrote on an extremist website about the day when she would send one of her sons off to fight. “I pictured the future while I was zipping up his jacket, in sha Allah I’ll be tying the shahada bandana round his forehead and hand him his rifle and send him out to play the big boys game,” she said.
Khan, from Luton, admitted four charges of disseminating terrorist publications between July and September 2013.
She told BBC Newsnight: “I was posting up my belief.”
Prisoners and guards 'should meditate together', MP says
Labour's Chris Ruane said 'mindfulness' should be introduced into prisons to help inmates become better citizens
By Bill Gardner, and agency 10:12PM GMT 10 Dec 2014
Prisoners and their guards should meditate together to reduce violence and improve behaviour, an MP has suggested.
Mindfulness is said to change the way people think about experiences and reduce stress and anxiety, an approach adopted by around 115 MPs and peers in the "hothouse" of Parliament.
Using meditation, devotees are trained to "accept the intentional, accepting and non-judgmental focus of one's attention on the emotions, thoughts and sensations occurring in the present moment".
Labour's Chris Ruane said the "chic" approach would help prisoners to learn "gratitude, appreciation and balance". Meditating would also help inmates become better citizens when they leave jail, he said.
The Vale of Clwyd MP added officers and prisoners should learn together while the approach should also be extended to police officers and the military.
Google, Apple and other top international companies advocate the technique, Mr Ruane said.
He added US marines had also successfully adopted it, telling the Commons: "If it works with big beefy marines, I think it could work with British prison officers."
Justice Minister Andrew Selous acknowledged the Ministry of Justice is to launch mindfulness projects in the new year, although did not specify further details.
Speaking during an adjournment debate, Mr Ruane noted issues had been caused by a decrease in prison staff at a time when the number of inmates had increased.
The Labour backbencher told the Commons: "I think it's how you pitch mindfulness as an intervention, that is accepted - in fact it's quite chic for some people.
"Arianna Huffington of the Huffington Post, she practices it and preaches it, it's done by Apple, Google, all the top international companies are having it.
"And I think if it's good enough for the captains of industry, it's also good enough for ordinary workers like prison officers, like police officers and indeed their clients as well - prisoners and prison officers together in tandem and this is when mindfulness works best when it's the teacher and the pupil, when it's the GP and the patient, where compassion is increased.
"So I believe if we were to introduce mindfulness in prisons then we would help on a whole range of issues.
"We've literally got a captive audience there with prisoners. They're in there 24 hours a day, what did they do within those 24 hours?
"Do they learn the skills that mindfulness brings? The skills of gratitude, appreciation, of balance - personal balance and equanimity - which will help them be better prisoners, help them be less violent towards
Inmate with knife held prison officer hostage, Plymouth court told
A VIOLENT drugged-up inmate armed with a makeshift knife held a prison officer hostage, a court heard
By Plymouth Herald | Posted: December 09, 2014
Ben Clancy, aged 27, has been given a further jail term for trapping the man in a small office for half an hour.
Clancy pulled out the knife after taking a homemade drug because he was upset that his cell at Dartmoor Prison had been searched, Plymouth Crown Court heard.
Recorder Paul Dunkels praised the “calm and professional” way in which officer Tim Grylls safely resolved a “very frightening” incident.
Handing Clancy a consecutive sentence of two years and eight months, he said: “The sentence is intended to deter you and others who are serving custodial sentences from behaving this way towards prison officers. They are public servants who are entitled to the court’s protection.”
Clancy, now at Exeter Prison, pleaded guilty to falsely imprisoning Mr Grylls on March 18.
Julia Cox, for the Crown Prosecution Service, said Clancy became upset when prison officers found banned items of clothing in his cell. He started shouting to other inmates on the wing.
Miss Cox said Mr Grylls noticed Clancy following him to the fourth floor landing office.
He added the prison officer used the computer in the office, which is only about two metres wide and three metres long, for a few minutes.
Miss Cox said that Clancy stepped into the office and closed the door.
She added: “Clancy said words to the effect that he had something to ask the officer. He added he had a knife and he was prepared to use it.”
The court heard that Clancy then rolled up a sleeve to reveal a weapon made from a plastic cutlery knife with a razor blade attached.
Miss Cox said: “He said he had never taken a prison officer hostage before.”
She added Clancy asked Mr Grylls to call another prison officer to the office on the phone.
Miss Cox said he stood with the weapon in his hand but did not brandish it towards his captive, instead holding it against his own wrist.
Extra staff called upon to tackle 60-strong Haverigg prison protest
EMERGENCY procedures had to be put in place at a Cumbrian jail after more than 60 inmates refused to go back to their cells.
By in Cumbria | Posted: December 08, 2014
Prison bosses were left stunned at the impromptu protest at HMP Haverigg, which has stoked fears that overcrowding and understaffing in jails are reaching crisis point.
The inmates took part in what prison bosses have described as a “peaceful protest” last month and prison sources said the jail had to implement its Tornado response to bring the situation back under control.
Staff were drafted in from neighbouring jails to try to bring the situation under control though the refusal to go inside for “lock-up” did not involve any violence.
It is understood staffing levels at HMP Haverigg could have made it easier for inmates to refuse to return to their cells.
A source at the prison said: “It would be easier with more staff but that’s the same all over the country.”
Andrew Neilson, director of campaigns at the Howard League for Penal Reform, said: “The prison system is in meltdown. Jails are struggling to cope with a toxic mix of chronic overcrowding, growing prisoner numbers and deep staff cuts.
“This has led to an alarming rise in the number of suicides in prisons, as well as increased reports of assault, bullying and self-harm. Having fewer staff means restricted regimes, with prisoners spending up to 23-hours-a-day locked in their cells.
“Given these conditions, it should surprise no-one if we see a rise in the number of call-outs to prisons.”
Recent research by the Howard League revealed a 43 per cent drop in staff at Haverigg in the last four years, from 140 to just 80 staff managing the 638 inmates.
The prison recently announced it would recruit 10 new prison officers after a three-year recruitment freeze and the Ministry of Justice says retired officers have been sent invitations to return to work.
Research published by the charity shows nationally there were only 14,170 officer grade staff working in prisons run by the state at the end of June 2014.
There were more than 24,000 at the end of August 2010.
A Prison Service spokeswoman said: “A number of prisoners took part in a passive protest inside the prison.
“There were no injuries to staff or prisoners and all prisoners were returned to their cell the same evening.”
Tornado is a national programme which refers to mutual aid arrangements across jails in England and Wales. The measures are in place to help respond to serious incidents by providing trained resources in addition to those already in place at prisons.
The ban on books for prisoners is over. But how did it happen in the first place?
Whether the Ministry of Justice decision was driven by dogma or a simple mistake, such inhumane treatment would do nothing to rehabilitate prisoners
By Mark Haddon theguardian.com, Monday 8 December 2014 12.19
The ban on sending books to prisoners in England and Wales was finally declared unlawful by Mr Justice Collins in the high court on Friday. It is good news for prisoners, good news for their families and friends, and good news for Frances Crook and the Howard League for Penal Reform who kick-started the campaign to get the ridiculous ruling overturned. And it is probably good news for many inside the Ministry of Justice who, I suspect, are heartily tired of defending the indefensible and secretly glad to be able to blame the high court for the U-turn they should have performed a long time ago.
It is still instructive, though, to ask how the ban came into being in the first place. We know it was a mistake – and we know they know it was a mistake – because it was introduced by Chris Grayling last November as part of a new “incentives and earned privileges” regime. That is, prisoners could get hold of new books, but only by buying them, and only when they had earned the right to do so. Soon after the rule came under fire, however, he and his department began to claim it was a policy aimed at stemming the flow of drugs into prison (an assertion rapidly dismissed by the Prisoner Officers Association). So, right from the start, the Ministry of Justice knew its original justification was preposterous.
The ability and opportunity to read widely – to stand in the shoes of the different and the dead, to travel to other times and into other cultures – is an important part of being human. But you don’t need to agree with me in order to be in favour of prisoners reading more books. You don’t need to believe that literature makes you a better person (I’m genuinely unsure about that myself). You don’t need to care about the huge problem of literacy in British prisons (although I think you should). What you cannot deny is that books are one of the cheapest and safest ways of keeping people calm. Our prisons are increasingly overcrowded and under-staffed. There are rapidly rising numbers of assaults, suicides and incidents of self-harm. Being locked into a little room for 23 hours a day could tip a lot of people over the edge. A battered paperback of Gone Girl or Killing Floor could save a person’s life.
And that matters even if you only care about the people who clean up the mess afterwards.
So why did the Ministry of Justice make the mistake? Why did they decide to do something so inflammatory that had no discernible benefit? It had the words books and ban written
Jail bosses admit heroin abuse has reached 'epidemic' proportions at Portlaoise Prison
TOP jail bosses admit there is a heroin “epidemic” at the country’s only high-security prison at Portlaoise
By Eamon Dillon 6th December, 2014
The lock-up is where many of Ireland’s most dangerous gangsters and paramilitaries are being held. Despite armed soldiers guarding the prison perimeter, inmates have had no problem getting their hands on illegal drugs.
The prison campus also includes the Midlands Prison, and the two jails hold just over 1,000 inmates.
The startling admission was recorded on the minutes of a top-level governors’ meeting, seen by the Sunday World. It was noted at the meeting last month that “heroin epidemic prevalence continues to be a problem”.
A search carried out by the Prison Service Operational Support Group (OSG) earlier this month uncovered a cache of tablets, home-made booze and a mobile phone. The stash belonged to gangster Brian Rattigan (below), who is serving life for murder and was previously convicted of organising major heroin deals from his jail cell in Portlaoise.
The tablets included steroids and sleeping tablets, which can command high prices behind bars. There are fears that visitors have been persuaded to smuggle in drug stashes since the drug dog unit had its budget slashed.
Unofficial sources have told the Sunday World that many of the top jails are “awash with drugs” despite searches carried by the OSG.
The Irish Prison Service (IPS) stated that preventing smuggling is one of the “continuing major challenges in prisons today”.
“Efforts are made on a continuous basis to prevent the flow of contraband by the installation of nets over exercise yards, vigilant observation of prisoners by staff, enhanced CCTV monitoring, the stricter control of visits and the use of prisoner and random cell searches on a daily basis,” a spokeperson added.
“Nevertheless, the Irish Prison Service recognises that constant improvements are required.”
On November 4, a search of C Wing in Mountjoy in Dublin found mobile phones, sim cards, 400 tablets, 21.5 grammes of heroin, cannabis and 60 litres of home-brewed ‘hooch’. The current chaos was added to this week by prison staff who have withdrawn ‘goodwill’, after a series of cutbacks and changes to their working day.
Staff are furious over not being allowed out during breaks and having to wait an extra 20 minutes at the end of their shift.
Visitors at the Midlands Prison suffered delays as prison officers stuck rigidly to the rule that only one inmate at a time could be brought to the visiting area. They normally bring three prisoners to speed up the process.
This week the Prison Officers’ Association and officials from IPS met to discuss concerns.
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Serco shares plunge 32% after £1.5bn writedown
Shares in Serco plunged yesterday after the firm’s new chief executive wrote down £1.5 billion from the value of the outsourcing specialist and issued a stark profits warning.
By Graham Huband 11 November, 2014
Former Aggreko boss Rupert Soames said the company faced at least two more difficult years ahead as it continues to battle against a series of legacy issues.
He highlighted the impact of several contracts where Serco is making large losses, and areas where the company is sub-scale, and said the future for Serco was as a business to government (B2G) services contractor.
The plan will be financed by a £550 million cash call to investors early next year, on top of the £165m raised in a share placing in the summer.
Mr Soames said the refocusing of the business followed internal reviews carried out since he joined the business in May.
“Whilst it is a bitter pill, it is better for all concerned that we swallow it now and establish a really solid foundation on which to build Serco’s future,” the CEO said.
“As might be expected, the contract and balance sheet reviews have encouraged much turning over of stones and reflects our changing strategy and the latest view of the challenges we face on a few large contracts.
“These challenges, together with a less pronounced improvement in trading our second half than we expected, have led us to a more cautious view of 2014 and 2015.”
Mr Soames said the results of the full strategy review would be made public at the time of the firm’s full-year results in March.
“However, the direction is clear,” he said.
“Serco will concentrate on its core as a leading
Inside Broadmoor: Cameras allowed into hospital for Britain's most notorious criminals
It is home to 200 of the most violent and disturbed men in the country, and has housed infamous killers such as the Yorkshire Ripper Peter Sutcliffe and poisoner Graham Young.
By Claire Carter 2 Nov 2014
For more than a century the corridors and wards of Broadmoor have remained closed to the public, its practices such as using six guards to open the door for one patient a closely guarded secret.
But now Broadmoor has decided to open its doors and reveal the inside of the country's highest security psychiatric hospital.
Pictures inside the site in Berkshire show long corridors, heavy secure doors and rooms where anything that could be turned into a weapon is removed.
Security is high, with bars throughout the hospital's wards and signs warning staff they must wear personal attack alarms at all times. When they are with patients staff are told to wear body cameras
The caution is not without reason.
Staff in Broadmoor are attacked on average four times a week, which can involve punching, kicking or in some cases patients fashioning plastic cutlery into knives.
Around 30 times a year staff are called to disarm patients while all must have riot training and are equipped with helmets and shields.
A control room with a wall covered in screens allows staff to monitor patients and workers in the hospital's 15 wards which are covered with CCTV.
Security is high and is essential to safeguard staff as much as patients - most of whom will be on a combination of medication to treat psychiatric disorders.
Dr Amlan Basu, Clinical Director of Broadmoor, said: 'Patients that come here, they will have perpetrated often horrendous crimes but they are also victims and it's very easy to see somebody as either the perpetrator or the victim. It's much more difficult to understand that somebody might be both.'
Some are able to earn money in a tuck shop by making arts and crafts, but security has to be high to ensure any potential weapons are removed. All tools are checked in and out during every session.
The inside of the secure hospital has been revealed in an ITV documentary, filmed over a year throughout the hospital.
I’m proud of Gartree Prison says governor
Gartree Prison near Market Harborough has not suffered unduly from tighter budgets and a reduction in officer numbers, the governor has said.
By Alex Dawson 1 November, 2014
“Budgets going down? Well, that’s life isn’t it? We still deliver a very high quality of service,” said the prison’s governor Ian Telfer.
Speaking at a meeting of Market Harborough Civic Society last Wednesday, Mr Telfer said he was proud of his prison, and the work of his staff.
“I haven’t lost 41 per cent of my staff,” he said, robustly countering claims made last week by charity The Howard League for Penal Reform.
Mr Telfer said: “We’ve had some exits, but we’ve been through a benchmarking process which has made us more efficient.
“I want people to recognise Gartree for the high performing, decent place that it is. I’m proud of it.
“Market Harborough is a very special place; I’ve lived all over the country – first in the Marines, and then with the prison service – and your town is the nicest town I’ve seen. And you’ve got the nicest jail.”
As reported in last week’s Mail, The Howard League said its interpretation of Government figures showed that the number of prison officers at Gartree had fallen by 41 per cent in four years, while prisoner numbers had risen slightly.
The outgoing president of the Prison Governors’ Association, Eoin McLennan-Murray told his annual conference recently: “Prisons are moving towards and tending towards instability”,
But Mr Telfer said during week’s civic society meeting: “I’ve got some exceptional leaders at Gartree. Our prison officers are highly professional, trained people, and they don’t get enough credit.
“And Gartree is a very successful place. It’s a very, very stable prison. It is a decent prison. We treat the men in our care very well.
“We don’t have a high level of violence in Gartree. We have a respectful community, a respectful culture.”
Mr Telfer’s words are supported by two recent reviews of Gartree. A 2012/13 report from the Independent Monitoring Board praised the prison for successful changes to staffing structures, saying “morale has much improved”.
And a snap inspection in March by HM Chief Inspector of Prisons said Gartree was “safe, decent and works effectively”.
Sheppey Prison Cluster has lost 41% of officers since 2010 while East Sutton Park has lost 55%
The number of guards at Kent prisons has dropped by as much as 55% since 2010.
By Kent on line Reporter 20 OCT 2014
Just last week an inspector’s report following an unannounced visit to Cookham Wood Young Offenders Institute blamed staff shortages for rising violence and deteriorating standards of care at the prison.
And last month HMP Swaleside saw injuries to inmates and a prison officer in two separate attacks.
HMP East Sutton Park, a women's open prison and Young Offenders Institution, has seen the largest drop in officers from 22 to 10, a reduction of 55% since August 2010.
HM Prison Rochester, a male Young Offenders Institution, has seen a 48% drop over the same period from 233 in to 120.
Those 120 guards now manage 733 inmates.
The Sheppey Cluster, which includes local jail Elmley, category B prison Swaleside and Standford Hill open prison has seen a 41% reduction in officers.
From 740 guards in August 2010, numbers have dropped to just 440 for a population of 2,796 prisoners.
Category C HMP Maidstone has lost 38% of its officers, from 144 to 90 for a population of 588.
Cookham Wood Young Offenders Institute, which received a damning report from prison inspectors last week, has seen a 36% reduction in prison officers from 125 to 80 over the last four years.
The Howard League for Penal Reform, which carried out the research, said the drop in officer numbers has coincided with a deepening prison overcrowding crisis and an alarming rise in the number of suicides
Inspectors discover weapon use at Cookham Wood Prison
A "significant" use of weapons by inmates of a prison for teenage boys has been discovered by inspectors.
By BBC NEWS 14 Oct 2014
Some 35 weapons were found in a search at Cookham Wood, Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Prisons (HMIP) said.
In the six months before the inspection, 169 acts of violence were recorded, compared to 130 at the previous inspection.
The National Offender Management Service said staff were getting extra training.
Some 103 acts of violence were recorded as assaults and 66 as fights between boys.
Inspectors warned violence at the young offenders institution, near Rochester in Kent, was "high and rising".
Cookham Wood, which holds sentenced and remanded boys aged from 15 to 18, was operating on a restricted regime at the time of inspection due to staff shortages.
Inspectors watched more than a dozen videos of incidents which revealed the use of weapons, attacks on individuals by multiple assailants and "reckless" behaviour by boys, including kicking and head stamping.
Serious injuries following fights and assaults were not uncommon, the inspectors said.
Frances Crook, chief executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform, said it was "a new low".
"Cuts have pushed the prison system to breaking point", she said.
Chief inspector of prisons Nick Hardwick said: "We inspected Cookham Wood at a tough and challenging time.
"A new governor had recently been appointed and there had been significant loss of staff, not all of whom had been replaced."
Mr Hardwick said there was evidence of improvement since the inspection and "every reason for optimism".
"However, risks remain and the need to recruit suitable new staff is fundamental to the future success of the prison," he said.
Second disturbance at HMP Swaleside on Isle of Sheppey
A prison service spokesperson said: "Three prisoners were involved, one is being treated in hospital and two are being assessed for medical treatment."
By Kent online 8 Oct 2014
This latest disturbance comes just five days after inmates started several fires and attacked a prison guard.
Following the assault, in which the guard suffered facial injuries, the The Howard League for Penal Reform branded Swaleside "a very unsafe prison".
Andrew Neilson, director of campaigns at The Howard League for Penal Reform, said the number of prison officers in the jail has been cut by a quarter in the last four years which meant last Friday's incident did not come as a "massive surprise".
And last month Swaleside was slammed by HM Inspectorate of Prisons which blamed staff shortages for a variety of problems at the category B jail.
Serious issues raised by the report included a number of serious assaults on staff and inmates, with some prisoners too frightened to leave their cells.
Last month another report by an Independent Monitoring Board raised concern over the number of weapons found at the prison.
Kent online Comments
09/10/2014 10:27 Judge Dred wrote:
If we could ensure that time spent in prison was so horrendous that criminals actually broke down in tears in the dock when being sentenced and left prison saying they never want to return then we might begin to see a change in society as a whole.
However as long as we have organisations such as the Howard League for Penal Reform and various other organisations and human rights activists who believe that the criminals are the victims and need care and attention and excellent living conditions(certainly better than their homes) we will lose.
10/10/2014 07:12:55 A Rationale Perspective wrote:
Judge Dred, just think of the people who work in these environments do they deserve exposure to horrendous working conditions? After all a guard was stabbed just a few days ago there, what about his family?? Don't believe for one minute you could never end up in prison. All it takes is a momentary lapse of judgement, say whilst driving and you could be there. Do you think it would be right then, I wonder???
Sadly, some of these criminals never had a good start to life. Abusive parenting, where drugs, violence and sometimes sexual abuse were the order of the day.
Do you think putting them into another abusive environment is the answer, or showing them a life with dignity and respect is a better option??
09/10/2014 08:50: ChrisM wrote:
The best way to deal with them is to put them all in solitary isolation, and take away all electrical items.
Clegg call over 'criminal' bankers
The public is "seething with anger" at the banks and people should be brought to book for their actions, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has said
By Press Association, 13 November 2014 7.03pm
Five banks which employed traders who clubbed together to rig foreign exchange (forex) rates were fined more than £2 billion yesterday.
Mr Clegg said it had not yet been decided what the Government would do with the £1.1 billion of fines levied by the UK regulator.
Regulators discovered that some of the manipulation of the £3 trillion-a-day forex market was taking place even as the banks were being probed over a previous scandal over interbank lending rate Libor.Royal Bank of Scotland, HSBC, Citibank, JP Morgan Chase and UBS were handed the £1.1 billion penalty by the UK's Financial Conduct Authority and fines totalling 1.5 billion US dollars (£927 million) by US authorities.
Mr Clegg told LBC Radio that the Serious Fraud Office was also investigating and he hoped that anyone involved in criminal activity would face justice.
He said: "The Serious Fraud Office ... need to look at this. And they are. And I hope they will bring people to book and I hope people will be brought to justice."
He added: "People are seething with anger that they're having to endure cuts and savings for year after year after year because of not only irresponsible, in some cases ... possibly criminal behaviour by bankers."
Asked what would be done with the fines, Mr Clegg said: "I think the figure is just over a billion pounds that comes to the Treasury because of these fines related to the foreign exchange scandal. And we will make a decision as a Government what to do with that money."
Hexham MP Guy Opperman speaks out in defence of HMP Northumberland
Guy Opperman, MP for Hexham, said staff and leaders at HMP Northumberland are doing a good job."
By Will Metcalfe 15 Sep, 2014
A Northumberland MP has spoken out in favour of an under fire prison described by some staff as a ‘tinderbox’.
Hexham MP Guy Opperman defended HMP Northumberland after weeks of criticism from unions and probation staff.
Government officials from Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons (HMIP) this month visited the jail after a string of incidents prompted safety concerns.
But Mr Opperman spoke out in the House of Commons to defend the Category C prison, telling his fellow MPs to stop ‘sniping’ at both the prison and its staff.
A former barrister, the Tory MP said he had visited countless prisons while working as a lawyer.
And, accompanied by justice secretary Chris Grayling, he was among a delegation to tour the prison earlier this summer.
He said: “When I met the management and individual prison officers this summer, I was impressed by their hard work, dedication and commitment to the prison.
“Does the Minister agree that we should get behind them and not endlessly snipe at the prison and its staff?”
Mr Opperman said after the debate that he believes staff at the jail are doing a “really good job”.
That is despite concerns which have been raised by probation workers’ union NAPO about a 39% reduction in the number of staff from 441 in 2010 to 270 in 2013