Riot-hit Birmingham Prison has been criticised for “warehousing” its prisoners in “overcrowded, spartan, dirty accommodation with little opportunity for rehabilitation”.
The report, by the Independent Monitoring Board, also revealed significant concerns about violence and banned ‘legal highs’ like Spice and Black Mamba.
There were 196 blue-light calls to the prison between June 2016 and July 2017, and most were related to new psychoactive substances (NPS).
The Board also praised the bravery of staff who dealt with riots at the Winson Green jail last December and suggested some should receive awards for their quick actions and decision-making on the day.
And the report added there had been clear determination and commitment from the new management team to provide a safe and secure environment for all.
But it said: “The Board considers many prisoners are being ‘warehoused’ in overcrowded, spartan, dirty accommodation with little opportunity for rehabilitation.
“It remains the case that the increasingly difficult behaviour of a minority of prisoners, living in overcrowded wings on the Victorian part of the prison, gives the Board cause for concern.
“The Board remains seriously concerned about the presence of new NPS in the prison and the negative impact that daily, multiple NPS incidents have on all aspects of prison life.
“Many staff remain concerned for their personal safety, as well as for the safety of the prisoners, and how to deal with the next ‘Mamba attack’.
“Alongside the emphasis on ‘getting the basics right’, management is now increasing its focus on investigating the use of the latest technology available to prevent the ingress of drugs, – but funding remains an issue.”
The Board said NPS incidents in the category B jail were also adversely impacting on normal regime activities.
“As in previous years, the prison does not have the capacity to run a full regime when an unexpected issue arises, these frequently being multiple NPS-induced incidents, which require deploying staff away from their regular duties,” the report read.
“Purposeful activity, external and internal medical appointments, attendance at education, gym and the library have all been adversely affected at various times during the reporting period, when there were insufficient escorts available.
“In summary, despite the best efforts of many officers and the prison leadership, the prison has lacked the resources to provide a positive opportunity for many of the thousands of men who passed through an overcrowded, and often unsafe, Birmingham prison this year.”
The Board recognised, however, that the situation “arises, in considerable part, due to the unrealistic requirements placed upon the prison by Her Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service.
“The Independent Monitoring Board’s remit is to monitor the prison, to satisfy itself as to the humane and just treatment of those in custody, and the adequacy of programmes preparing them for release. The Board regrets that neither condition has been consistently met in this reporting period.”
WHAT PRISON BOSS SAYS
HM Prison Birmingham director Richard Stedman, who was appointed in April of this year, said: “The establishment is entirely focused on applying lessons learned to ensure that HM Prison Birmingham is a safe, ordered and purposeful establishment.
“The past twelve months have been challenging for Birmingham and this report reflects the difficulties that we and many other prisons across the country are facing. I welcome that monitors have recognised the work we are doing and the early signs of improvements in safety, order and staff morale.
“We have completed a PRISM (Promoting Risk Intervention by Situational Management) report on the levels of violence at Birmingham, a psychological holistic assessment into the causes of violence, and have developed an 18-month action plan to deliver and sustain the downward trend in violence.
“In addition, we continue our significant investment in new technology and recruiting additional staff.
“By the end of November we are projected to exceed our contracted number of prison custody officers. We will look carefully at the recommendations made and will continue to work with partners in the community and the Ministry of Justice to make further progress at Birmingham in the year ahead.”
BOSSES at HMP Birmingham were warned of potential disorder immediately prior to last year’s 15-hour riot, the report reveals.
December’s disturbance spread to four wings and cost G4S, the private company running the jail, about £6 million.
The Independent Monitoring Board report said CCTV on the wings would have allowed control room staff to assess the level of disorder immediately
It also disclosed that “concerning indicators of potential disruption” were shared with senior managers before the trouble broke out.
“The serious disturbance in December 2016 had a significant, immediate and longer-lasting impact on all who are held or work at the prison,” said the report.
“On the day, and in the days and weeks after the disturbance.
“Board members witnessed many positive, brave and considerate acts by members of staff, most of whom worked exceptionally long hours then, and in the weeks following the disturbance.
“There are several members of staff deserving of recognition awards in respect of their quick actions and decision-making on the day.
“It was also clear that, had CCTV been available on the wings, the level of disorder could have been assessed immediately at the control room.
“While we do not know what the benefit of CCTV would have been, we can observe that a lack of CCTV was not beneficial.
“Immediately prior to the disturbance there had been concerning indicators of potential disruption, noted and communicated to the senior management team by Board members.
“However, there was no clear indication of the likelihood of a disturbance of such impact.”
There were more than 1,500 incidents of vandalism during the year,
They included damage to over 500 phones and more than 200 toilets.
“Deliberate damage is so frequent, that repairs do not keep pace,” the report reveals.
“Many cell windows have no glass or only damaged Perspex, and prisoners use sheets or clothing to fill the gaps.”
Number of repairs for vandalism July 2016 to June 2017
Phones – 504
Toilets – 207
Windows – 204
Electrics – 146
Smoke detectors – 142
Beds – 129
Lights – 123
Sinks – 122
Total repairs – 1,577
* There were 274 reported assaults by prisoner on prisoner from January 1 to June 30, 2017
* There were 166 reported assaults by prisoners on staff in the same period.
* But violence has reduced and staff morale has improved in the last two months.
* Men have been held in the first night centre without daily access to fresh air or association and limited access to showers.
* These men, often in prison for the first time, have effectively been behind their cell door for up to 22 hours a day for several days and, on occasion, weeks.
* One elderly, vulnerable, disabled prisoner waited four months for replacement dentures as he was unable to see the dentist because the lift was broken.
* Only 13.85 per cent figure of prisoners are released into employment – a rate judged unacceptable.