13 Aug 2014

Damning report into UK prisons highlights rise in violence

Week after week there seems to be yet another damning report on the state of this country’s prisons.

Today it is the Serco privately run Doncaster Prison where the Ministry of Justice has been trialling “payment by results” for those sentenced to under a year.

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The word “violence” appears 22 times in the report of an unannounced visit by prison inspectors and there’s a grim picture emerging from behind the scenes or rather the walls of this 20-year-old South Yorkshire category B prison.

Levels are four times above the norm, or as the inspectors put it “level of assaults and fights was very high. The management of violence was arbitrary and not well focused. Support for victims was poor.”

Read more: Glen Parva prison ‘unsafe’ for young offenders

Last week in a report on Glen Parva “violence” was mentioned 24 times and inspectors had this to say: “In our survey prisoners reported extremely high levels of violence and intimidation by other prisoners and we found other evidence to substantiate this.”

More people died in prison in 2013 than any other year, with suicides up by 69 per cent in a year. The prison service management’s own assessment rated 28 prisons as “of concern.”

But six of those including the two mentioned above have been upgraded on request to avoid being tagged “of serious concern”. Only we do not learn why.

Read more: damning report condemns violence at Feltham prison

Today Labour held a prison summit. We were not allowed in. The Howard League for Penal Reform was among some prison charities which didn’t turn up.

They are uncomfortable about providing the Government with room to accuse them of being the opposition’s poodles.

So you would think there would be a lot to talk about on our programme. But no one from the Ministry of Justice wants to. We have made repeated requests and the refusal seems at odds with Chris Grayling’s recently expressed desire to promote his department’s transparency.

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