Prisons in the press – 19 February

Prisoners locked out of jail and couples line up to tie the knot behind bars 

... Image: Alexandre Dulaunoy

How a cigarette break led two prisoners to freedom. Image: Alexandre Dulaunoy


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


Hot off the press

Prison staff are failing to act on obvious suicide risk factors. Known factors indicating a heightened risk – such as a history of suicidal behaviour or the circumstances of their offence – can be overlooked, the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman said. The Huffington Post has the story.


Revealed this week

  1. ‘Disgraceful’ security figures reveal rise in drug smuggling. Prison visitors were caught trying to smuggle drugs into jails almost every day in the last three months of 2015. Shadow Justice Minister Andy Slaughter says figures show drug issue is ‘out of control’. The Sun has the story.
  2. Prisoners spark a manhunt after being locked out of prison. Inmates Stuart Miach and Andrew Hook left their open prison, HMP Hewell, for a cigarette break and could not get back in. The pair stood in a nearby field as police helicopters scrambled to find them. The Mirror has more.
  3. Prison staff did not ‘know where inmates were’.  A report into HMP Leicester revealed there were high levels of violence, regular attacks on officers, increasing levels of self-harm, and drugs and alcohol were readily available. The BBC has the story and we have a round-up here.
  4. Scottish inmates forced to use sink as a toilet. Inspectors found that some prisoners at HMP Cornton Vale, Scotland’s only all-female jail, had to wait over an hour to use a shared toilet overnight. The BBC has the story.
  5. Convicted robber paid £22,500 in compensation for prison mix-up. The robber was mistakenly held in jail for a year beyond his release date and was one of nearly two dozen jailbirds who received pay outs from the Prison Service for being kept behind bars beyond their sentence. The Belfast Telegraph has more.


The governors have spoken… 

  1. Former prison governor’s leader: yes to Gove, no to league tables. The Guardian reports Eoin McLennan-Murray, who ran the prison with the lowest reoffending rates says league tables for individual jails would be ‘silly’ but a national target could work. Read more here.
  2. Lincoln prison could be forced to close. One of the country’s most experienced justice officials, Kevin Lockyer, says Lincoln prison’s future is under threat as part of Government plans to reform UK jails. The Lincolnshire Echo has more.
  3. Governor returns to the prison where ‘she learned her trade’. Brenda Stewart returned to HMP Perth last September and yesterday told The Courier she feels a raft of measures put in place to help some prisoners with addiction problems have paid dividends. Read the story here.


News is context: Suicide risk factors are being missed 

The report by the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman found that too often staff in prison receptions make decisions based on their perceptions of an inmate’s presentation and statements from the prisoner that they do not have any thoughts or intention of suicide or self-harm.

Ombudsman Nigel Newcomen said:

“The early days and weeks of custody are often a difficult time for prisoners and a period of particular vulnerability for those at risk of suicide.

“Some prisoners have obvious factors, such as mental ill-health or a lack of experience of prison, that indicate that they are at heightened risk of suicide, but my investigations too often find that staff have failed to recognise or act on them – with potentially fatal consequences.”


Source: Flickr

The Prisons and Probation Ombudsman found suicide warning signs were being missed. Source: Flickr


The report listed a number of lessons to be learned including a need for staff to identify, record and act on all known risk factors during reception and inductions for all prisoners.

Frances Crook, Chief Executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform, said:

“It is well known that people entering an institution are particularly vulnerable. It is therefore concerning that recommendations have to be repeated because they have not been acted on. Meanwhile, people are dying.

“We are waiting for bold action to address the prison crisis as the only way to save lives, reduce reoffending and make prisons safer is to reduce the number of people detained.”


In other news 

Prison cell with grisly history becomes Britain’s smallest wedding venue. The seven foot prison cell at Castle Cary, Somerset, was built in 1779 and has been home to vagrants and crooks and comes decked with manacles on the walls and bars over the only window. MailOnline has more.

Wrexham’s new jail name announced. The massive super prison, costing £212m, will be called HMP Berwyn and is expected to open in February 2017. The Daily Post has the story.

nside the world’s toughest prison .

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