NEWS ARTICLES ABOUT HMP NORTHUMBERLAND    


FANCY BECOMING A PRISON OFFICER?  HMP NORTHUMBERLAND IS OFFERING £20k SALARY - NO EXPERIENCE NEEDED

The following article was published by Chronicle Live on 4th August 2017

  

The privately run jail had offered redundancy after staff asked to leave earlier this year but is now on the lookout for new employees

Troubled jail HMP Northumberland is advertising for prison officers, just months after offering an bonus redundancy package for staff who wanted out.

The privately run prison has been dogged with issues since it was taken over by Sodexo in 2013, though the Independent Monitoring Board’s (IMB) 2016 report for the Category-C jail said that improvements were being made.
In a job advert which has appeared on its website, Sodexo is calling for reliable, consistent people who “tell it like it is” and keep calm under pressure.

The advert warns: “You’ll need to deal with the more challenging aspects of prison life such as abusive and violent behaviour. You’ll be working with all sorts of prisoners including those on long sentences, people convicted of serious crime and vulnerable individuals.”

No experience is required for the £20,000-a-year role, all the prison asks is that applicants are “made of the right stuff”.
After just nine weeks training prison officers will be in the wings working with prisoners.
It is thought that the roles are to replace prisoner officers who took an enhanced redundancy package after asking prison bosses for a way out.

In March an HMP Northumberland spokesperson confirmed that redundancy had been offered after requests from staff.
Prison Officers’ Union chair for the North East Terry Fullerton said that the high staff turnover at the prison puts safety at risk.  He said: “They’ve got people going in, seeing what the job is like and leaving.

“The turnover is a real concern at the moment, if people are leaving after six months or 12 months they aren’t staying long enough to become experienced and there aren’t enough experienced prison officers working there."

An HMP Northumberland spokesperson responded and said they always have enough staff to keep the prison safe.
They said: “We continually review staffing levels to ensure we run a safe and secure prison, which remains our priority.”
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HMP NORTHUMBERLAND STAFF AND PRISONERS AT RISK DUE TO FAILING FIRE SAFETY STANDARDS

The following article was published by Chronicle Live on 3rd August 2017

  

HMP Northumberland has had non-compliance notices issued for every aspect of fire safety in inspections within the past 12 months

Prisoners and staff are at risk at Northumberland Prison because of a failure to comply with fire regulations.
Inspectors found there are “inadequate measures to control the risk of fire and smoke spreading within common areas” and staff have not been given enough training about how to deal with a fire in a cell.
The warning came from a Home Office agency responsible for fire safety at state-owned buildings.

But it only became public following a freedom of information request by Mark Leech, editor of an a guide called The Prisons Handbook for England and Wales, who wanted to know whether the nation’s prisons were safe following the Grenfell tower block tragedy.

He discovered that every fire safety inspection of a prison by the Crown Premises Fire Inspection Group over the past 12 months had resulted in a “non-compliance” notice being issued.

Other concerns in Northumberland’s case included a warning that emergency lighting may not be good enough.
Inspectors also warned: “The fire safety measures were not always being tested and maintained in good condition and effective working order.”

The prison, in Acklington, Northumberland, has more than 1,300 prisoners and is managed by private firm Sodexo Justice Services on behalf of the Prison Service.

An HMP Northumberland spokesperson said: “Sodexo remains fully committed to providing a safe and secure environment for all who live and work in HMP Northumberland. Since taking over the management of the prison, Sodexo has invested more than £2m in fire safety infrastructure, as was noted in the prison’s recent Independent Monitoring Board report, and is working to continually improve our systems. We welcome the report from CFPIG and will address the matters raised in the appropriate timeframes.”

A Prison Service spokesperson said: “We take fire safety extremely seriously. All nineteen prisons have undertaken immediate action to address the recommendations made by the inspection group.

“Every single prison across the estate has a mandatory annual fire risk assessment, carried out by a fire safety specialist, and individual fire strategies in place which are closely monitored.”

It comes as prison managers nationally warned they were losing control because of overcrowding and a lack of staff.
Andrea Albutt, president of the Prison Governors Association (PGA), said many prisons “are in crisis” and warned: “The recent increase in concerted indiscipline is of grave concern”.

This week, riot officers were sent into HMP The Mount in Hertfordshire after inmates took over a wing for the second time in 24 hours.

Ms Albutt launched a blistering attack on the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) in an open letter addressed to fellow prison governors.

She said: “We know many prisons are in crisis and I deliberately use that term, because it can’t be dressed up in any other way.”

“The governor warned that an unforeseen rise in prisoner numbers had left the estate with “virtually no headroom” in spaces, while seasonal pressures were adding strain to limited staffing levels.

“The instability we are seeing is clearly linked to a poor regime,” Ms Albutt said.

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ONE IN SIX INMATES AT HMP NORTHUMBERLAND IS ON DRUGS - EXCLUSIVE DATA REVEALS

The following article was published by Chronicle Live on 28th July 2017

Latest Goverment figures show 15.7% of inmates at the Acklington jail failed a random drugs test in 2016

   

Almost one in six prisoners at a troubled North East jail is on drugs, a new report said.
Figures by the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) show that 15.7% of inmates at HMP Northumberlandfailed a random drugs test last year.

The report found the prison, run by Sodexo Justice Services, had the 16th highest rate of any jail in the country.

However, the figures show the Acklington jail did meet its target of 16%.

In the MoJ’s last report on the prison in 2015, inspectors found “too many prisoners felt it was easy to obtain illicit drugs or alcohol and random drug testing suggested drug usage was high”.

It added: “Work to support prisoners trying to confront their drug problem was, despite this, generally very good.”

A Sodexo spokesman said they take a “zero tolerance approach” to banned items inside the prison.

The spokesman added: “Although the recorded level of drugs use is higher than we would want, it is a reduction from last year and it is within the targets set for us by the MoJ.

“This is due to the hard work of staff who work with other law enforcement agencies to successfully stop drugs getting into the prison on a regular basis.

“Any member of the public who has information which would support us in our continual drive to reduce drug misuse should either contact the prison directly or contact their local police office.”

In February, a BBC Panorama investigation found widespread drug use and staff were being threatened by inmates at the jail.

An undercover reporter spent two months working as an officer and witnessed prisoners high on drugs.

In one incident, a senior officer was seen lying on the ground shaking and having a fit after accidentally inhaling the drug spice being smoked by prisoners.

A Sodexo spokesman said at the time: “Security and the safety of our prisoners and staff are our top priority, which is why we have made significant investments in these two areas over and above the contract requirements.”

The prison service operates a compulsory random drug testing programme on all inmates.

The MoJ said it took a zero tolerance approach to illicit material in prisons and aims to test between five and 10% of inmates every month.

Brixton in South London and HMP Bristol were among the prisons with the highest rate of inmates failing drug tests in the country last year.

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CALL IS MADE FOR COUNTY TO HAVE A PRIDE FESTIVAL

The following article was published by the Northumberland Gazette on 28th July 2017


 
      
Representing HMP Northumberland. From left: Brenda Kirkup, Gaynor Ayre, Lorna Stewart-Hook and Debbie Flounders.

A woman who is in a same-sex marriage says she would love to see Northumberland have it’s own lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) festival, after the success of Newcastle’s Northern Pride.

Lorna Stewart-Hook, who is married to Carmelle, attended last weekend’s celebrations at the Town Moor. The annual event in Newcastle is the biggest LGBT festival in the North East of England. And Lorna says she wants Northumberland to follow suit.

Lorna, who has also created the Northumberland LGBT Network Facebook group, said: “I hope Northumberland Pride will happen one day. It would raise awareness of LGBT people locally, celebrate the LGBT lifestyle and let people know they can live their lives freely and society has moved with the times.

Newcastle has a pride, Sunderland does – why not Northumberland?”

Lorna works at HMP Northumberland and thanks to her, the prison was involved in last weekend’s Northern Pride.

Prison staff joined forces with Independent Monitoring Board members and former employees to walk in Saturday’s parade, along with thousands of other people. It was the first time that HMP Northumberland has attended the parade.

As part of this, a special flag was made, with a combination of staff and prisoners’ logo designs. A competition was held for staff and inmates to design a logo which would be used for a year to feature on LGBT material within the prison, and feature on the flag.

Lorna said: “It was a fantastic way to show our support.

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SAFETY CONCERNS STILL EXIST AT HMP NORTHUMBERLAND, BUT PROGRESS MADE TO TACKLE ISSUES

The following article was published by the Northumberland Gazette on 13th July 2017

 

Safety is still a concern at HMP Northumberland, but progress is being made to tackle the supply of illegal substances, inspectors have said.
 
The findings were published recently in the Independent Monitoring Board’s (IMB) 2016 report for the Category-C jail, which has been run by private company, Sodexo Justice Services, since December 2013.

The Acklington-based facility gained unwanted national attention in February when it was at the centre of a shocking BBC Panorama exposé.

The disturbing documentary – featuring undercover reporter Joe Fenton, who posed as a prison custody officer for two months – painted a grim picture of life on the inside.

The explosive programme showed numerous problems at the prison, including inmates high on drugs, lapses in security and staff struggling to cope.

It prompted calls for the Government to terminate Sodexo’s contract.

The IMB’s report – published at the end of last month – states that there are still issues at HMP Northumberland, but adds that steps have been taken to address various problems.

It says: ‘Safety remains a concern, but is receiving proper attention, and progress is being made in areas such as addressing the supply of illegal substances, dealing with incidents related to use of new psychoactive substances (NPS), and protecting those most at risk from bullying.’ It adds that ‘progress has been made on refurbishment of accommodation and security systems’.

The Board does say that the effects of NSP continued to be a concern throughout the year, and there are more than 500 prisoners on some form of treatment for substance misuse, including more than 200 on methadone programmes.

But the report adds that there has been ‘considerable effort’ to reduce levels of substance misuse and the prison has ‘strengthened measures’ to control the flow and use of drugs and other items.

The report says that mandatory drug testing rates ‘suggest that the number of prisoners involved in substance misuse has fallen over the year’.

There has been a 36 per cent increase in the number of finds, and some ‘major discoveries’. The Board ‘regards these as confirmation that the issues are taken seriously, rather than a sign of failure.’

It states that there has been increased scrutiny in the visits hall, the number of banned visitors has increased and protocols for dealing with NPS-related incidents, and suspected swallowing, have been revised and strengthened. The report adds that there has been additional support on the wings, including awareness courses, while 11 prisoners have qualified as facilitators of SMART – a programme to help people manage recovery from addictive behaviour. The report says: ‘These are the first prisoners to gain this qualification in the UK and all those involved are to be commended.’

However, the number of prisoners who self-harm and the number of self-harm incidents rose during the year.

Each house block has a Samaritans phone and the Board was ‘concerned’ that during the year some of these did not appear to be working, and staff were requested to check them.
During 2016 there were seven deaths in custody.

Despite efforts to reduce demand on the care and separation unit, it has been operating at or close to full occupancy of the 18 cells for much of the year. The Board says that while pressures have continued, progress was made in 2016.

The Board praised Soxdexo for addressing ‘historic under-investment’ at the prison. It said that over the last three years ‘significant investment’ has been made in the estate and equipment, but there are still several house blocks still requiring improvements/upgrades to the shower facilities.

In terms of work, vocational training and employment, the Board says that considerable effort has been made over the year to increase the quantity, quality and range.

While the allocation of education places improved in 2016, there is ‘room for improvement in both attendance and punctuality’, with the Board saying that it is not uncommon for around a third of those who have been allocated a place to fail to attend or arrive late.

HMP Northumberland’s capacity is 1,348 prisoners. The report states that there is no overcrowding, but the number of prisoners aged over 55 increased by 15 per cent over the year and the number reporting a disability by 25 per cent.

A prison spokesman said: “We welcome the comments of the report which found progress is being made to address the supply of illegal substances and historic under-investment, and prisoners are being well prepared for release with an increasing number, variety and quality of work options.

“We are pleased the IMB found issues raised in the previous report had been addressed. We take on board comments about the continued refurbishment of the prison, caring for the increasing number of older prisoners and those with disabilities, and ensuring robust assessment of education and healthcare needs for new prisoners.”

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NEW DIRECTOR AT HMP NORTHUMBERLAND

The following article was published by the Northumberland Gazette on 28th June 2017

 

Mr Tony Simpson promoted

Tony Simpson has been replaced as director of HMP Northumberland after his promotion, but now has overall responsibility for five prisons, including the Acklington-based jail.

HMP Northumberland now has a new director in place after his predecessor was promoted to a new role.

Tony Simpson took on the role at the category C prison, which is run by private-sector operator Sodexo, in 2015, but he has now handed over to Nick Leader.

Sodexo UK & Ireland’s CEO of justice, Janine McDowell, said: “We appointed Nick Leader as director of HMP Northumberland in May to build on the progress achieved under Tony Simpson over the last two years.

“Nick brings 32 years of experience in the justice sector. He was director of HMP Peterborough for Sodexo for just over five years and was most recently CEO South of Sodexo’s probation business, responsible for three community rehabilitation companies.

“Tony Simpson has been promoted to director of operations of Sodexo’s custody business. “He now has overall responsibility for five prisons in England and Scotland, including HMP Northumberland.”

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INVESTIGATION LAUNCHED AFTER PRISONER FOUND DEAD AT HMP NORTHUMBERLAND

The following article was published by the Newcastle Journal on 25th May 2017

An investigation has been launched after the death of a prisoner at HMP Northumberland.

 

Sodexo Justice Services, which manages the Acklington jail, confirmed an inmate died on Friday.

The prisoner has not been named and no further details have been released.

An independent investigation by the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman has been ordered to determine the circumstances surrounding the tragedy.

A Sodexo spokesman said: “We can confirm there was a death in custody at HMP Northumberland on Friday.

“Deaths in custody are a tragedy. The next of kin have been informed and our thoughts are with the family.

“As with all deaths in custody, there will be an investigation by the police and the independent Prisons and Probation Ombudsman and therefore we are unable to comment further at this stage.”

HMP Northumberland holds around 1,348 inmates and was taken over by Sodexo in December 2013.

After winning the contract, the company promised to save £130m over 15 years and 200 jobs, including 96 prison officer posts, were cut.

Since then, the prison has been embroiled in scandal.
In February this year, a BBC Panorama investigation found widespread drug use and staff were being threatened by inmates at the jail.

It came after an undercover reporter for the programme spent two months inside the troubled prison.

In one incident, a senior officer was seen lying on the ground shaking and having a fit after accidentally inhaling the drug spice being smoked by prisoners.

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HMP NORTHUMBERLAND IS ON THE TURN AND FOR THE BETTER SAY UNION BOSSES

The following article was published by Chronicle Live on 22nd April 2017

Staff are tackling drugs and violence at the Acklington jail which was exposed by BBC Panorama, union bosses say.

    

A BBC Panorama investigation into HMP Northumberland showed widespread drug use, faulty alarms and staff threatened by prisoners.

An undercover reporter for the programme spent two months inside the jail which houses 1,348 inmates.

In one incident, a senior officer was seen lying on the ground shaking and having a fit after accidentally inhaling the drug spice being smoked by prisoners.

Staff also discovered wire cutters, balaclavas and black clothing in the prison, which it is thought inmates used to sneak out of their cell blocks.

Private company Sodexo Justice Services, who runs the jail, pledged to investigate the allegations after the programme aired in February.

Now, Glyn Travis, Assistant Secretary of the Prison Officers’ Association, has praised the progress made by the company in tackling the issues.

He said: “There was a lot of problems which will take time and investment - it needed a complete overhaul.

“There has been positive implementation by the staff, and although we can’t go into specifics, management are trying to work through them.

“The prison staff have made positive moves and showed they are bringing the right changes.”

A Sodexo spokesman said: “We continue to work closely with our staff and unions, including the Prison Officers’ Association, to provide as safe and secure a prison as possible.”

The Acklington jail was privatised in 2013, when the Government was aiming to cut £500m from the prisons budget.

After Sodexo won the contract, they promised to save £130m over 15 years and two hundred jobs, including 96 prison officer posts, were cut.

Since then, the prison has been embroiled in scandal with one former prisoner claiming it was “only matter of time” before a riot breaks out.

The 53-year-old, who has done five stretches at the jail totalling more than 22 years, said: “It is a nightmare the way the prison is being run.”
The prison’s director Tony Simpson responded saying the jail is under control and safety was their top priority.

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WHITLEY BAY DAD LOCKED-UP AFTER BEING CAUGHT HANDING OVER DRUGS TO INMATE AT HMP NORTHUMBERLAND

The following article was published by Chronicle Live on 22nd April 2017

A taxi office worker has himself ended up behind bars after being caught on CCTV handing over drugs to an inmate at a troubled North East prison.

  

John Appleby smuggled in a small amount of Buprenorphine, a class C drug, into HMP Northumberland whilst visiting the prison last March.

The 28-year-old dad was captured on CCTV placing the drugs onto a tray, which the inmate then picked-up and put down his trousers.

Newcastle Crown Court heard, after the illegal exchange was discovered, Appleby was arrested.


Newcastle Crown Court

Now, Appleby, of St Martin’s Close, Whitley Bay, has been locked-up for nine weeks after pleading guilty to conveying a class C drug into a prison.

Jailing him, Miss Recorder Davies said: “Drugs and indeed mobile phones are a great trouble in prison.

“Drugs in particular are used as currency.

“They can lead to violence, they create fear and are a serious problem.

“Taking controlled drugs into prison is an offence that is so serious that prison is almost inevitable.

“It is sad to see someone like you, who is employed and of good character, in this position.”

Harry Hadfield, prosecuting, said Appleby had no previous convictions and the amount of the drug he smuggled into the prison was small and of low-value.

He said a woman who smuggled a phone to the same prisoner during the same visit was given a suspended jail sentence at a earlier hearing.

Mark Styles, defending, said Appleby was not aware of what he was getting himself into when he agreed to the prison visit.

He told the court Appleby was simply handed the package on the way in.

Mr Styles added: “He initially said no but he stupidly took them and went through with them.

“He was left with a stark choice and he made the wrong choice at the last moment.

“He is of good character, a working man. He seems to have been taken for a fool by others.

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PRISONER HIGH ON SPICE ATTACKED GUARD WITH A TABLE LEG


The following article was published by Chronicle Live on 17th April 2017

 

HIGH on “spice” and illicit booze, a prisoner attacked a guard with a table leg whilst serving time in a troubled North East jail.

Daniel Newton, who was also drunk, was beating another inmate when the officer intervened and was assaulted.  He was given a suspended prison sentence for the affray.

Drunk Daniel Newton was caught by the prison officer beating a fellow inmate with the weapon in the corridor of HMP Northumberland.

Despite a warning to stop, the 25-year-old, who was serving a sentence for violence, continued to be aggressive and swung the leg in the air with both hands before hitting the guard on the leg, a court heard.

An emergency alarm was activated and the thug was quickly restrained, shouting “What the f*** are you doing?” when the prison officer deployed his baton.

In interview after being arrested, Newton said he couldn’t remember the incident as he was high on “spice and hooch”, the latter being slang for illicit alcohol, sometimes made in jails from remains of fruit fermented with yeast.

Now, Newton, of Hawesdale Crescent, Winlaton, Gateshead, has narrowly avoided being sent back to the prison after pleading guilty to affray.

Newcastle Crown Court heard the prison guard suffered bruising and soft tissue damage to his left thigh from the attack.

In a statement, he said he had been left in pain and he and his family had suffered.

The officer said: “Although I work in a dangerous environment, I’m disgusted this can happen at work.”

He added: “I cannot see any reason why the prisoner attacked me in such a way.

“I had given him ample warning to stop but he seemed determined to carry out the assault.”

Giving him an 18-month jail sentence, suspended for two years, Recorder Jonathan Aitken told Newton: “You describe this prison officer you assaulted as being a nice man who was thoroughly decent towards you while you were in prison.

“He’s obviously a prison officer and he had no choice when he saw you beating another inmate with a table leg but to intervene.

“He did so and he was rewarded by your assault on him.”

The Recorder added: “This is an offence, which certainly passes the custody threshold - assaults of prison officers carrying out their duty cannot be tolerated.”

The court heard Newton was serving a sentence for assault occasioning actual bodily harm when the attack happened on March 28 last year.

Prosecutor David Crook said it was around 5.10pm when inmates had been asked to return to their cells.

He said: “One of the officers was walking along the landing and observed the defendant with a wooden table leg raised above him as if to assault another prisoner.

“Fearing injury to the other prisoner, he told the defendant to drop the table leg. He was about 4ft away at the time.

“He was ignored and so he deployed his baton. The defendant continued to hold the table leg with both hands and swung it and struck the prison officer on the left thigh.

“Alarms were set off. The defendant was struck with the baton and said ‘What the f*** are you doing?’.”

Tom Finch, mitigating, said Newton had now been released from prison for a year and was making progress battling his addictions.

He said: “He has been engaging with Evolve, which is helping him with his addiction. It’s a long-haul because he acknowledges he still has a problem.”

Newton was also ordered to pay £250 compensation to the guard.
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RESTORATIVE JUSTICE PROJECT LAUNCHED IN NORTHUMBERLAND

The following article was published by Northumberland Gazette on 30th March 2017

 

A new initiative which aims to benefit victims, offenders and the local community has been launched by Victims First Northumbria (VFN) and HMP Northumberland, which is run by Sodexo.

The Restorative Engagement For Offender Recovery Management (REFORM) project aims to help victims of crime by working with offenders at HMP Northumberland who are remorseful and want to repair the harm caused by their behaviour.

Through a new joint approach, a member of staff from VFN will be based within the prison to coordinate the project and engage with offenders to work towards their participation in suitable restorative justice interventions with their victim.

Trained and experienced volunteers will help support the project, assisting in the process of bringing together victims of crime with the person who caused them harm.

This will allow them to seek answers to their questions and help them cope and recover from their experience, as well as providing the offender with the opportunity to make amends, realise the true impact of their actions and, ultimately, reduce their offending behaviour.

Ruth Parker, CEO of VFN, said: “VFN has a proven track record in supporting victims in Northumbria to cope and recover from their experience and allows them access to restorative interventions.

“This project is about working closely with HMP Northumberland to develop our offering further and building better futures for everyone.”

Tony Simpson, director of HMP Northumberland, added: “Sodexo are proud to support the work of VFN and to provide the funding for the initiative, which is generated from work undertaken by prisoners.”

HMP Northumberland is a working prison and inmates are employed to carry out work including laundry, waste recycling and gardening activities. Monies earned from these activities have been used to fund the REFORM Project.

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PRISON OFFICERS OFFERED 'BLOOD MONEY' TO GO


The following article was published by Chronicle Live on 24th March 2017

HMP Northumberland prison officers are asking bosses for cash to QUIT the troubled prison.  The Prison Officers Association has said the move could cost lives behind bars at the Acklington jail.

 


Prison officers at HMP Northumberland are so eager to leave they’ve asked bosses for a route out, we can reveal.

Sodexo, the private firm which runs the troubled jail, has offered staff generous severance packages of up to £60,000 to leave.

The offer is only open to staff who previously worked for the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) when the prison was in public hands.

Those staff were kept on terms and conditions and pay more generous than those who have started to work at the prison since it was taken over three years ago, unions claim.

Terry Fullerton, the North East representative for the Prison Officers Association, said losing experienced staff could plunge the troubled prison into further chaos.

“This is blood money,” he said. “The problems will only get worse if experienced staff leave, it is unacceptable.”

“Lives could be at risk, prisons need experienced staff who know what they’re doing.

“I am not surprised so many are keen to leave, but the situation will only get worse for those who stay.”

Up to 50 of the more experienced members of staff are being offered the severance packages, we have learned.

And it is believed that French-owned Sodexo will replace the staff with new recruits.

HMP Northumberland’s woes have been well documented in recent months, and it has been alleged that prisoners themselves are effectively in control of the jail.

A BBC Panorama investigation revealed smuggling and so-called legal highs were rife in the category C prison, and that officers were often left in fear of inmates.

An undercover reporter discovered a hole in the fence and faulty alarms at the prison, which houses up to 1,348 males.

The jail was privatised in 2013, when the Government was aiming to cut £500m from the prisons budget.

To win the contract, Sodexo pledged to save the taxpayer £130m over 15 years. Some 200, including 96 prison officer posts, were cut.

At the time of the deal, the Prison Officers Association warned it could result in “escapes and riots” and described it as a “tinderbox jail”.

A spokesperson for Sodexo confirmed the firm was offering severance packages after requests from staff.

Figures reveal unprecedented levels of violence North East prison officers are facing
They said: “Over the course of the past few months we have had requests from some staff to provide financial support for them to leave to pursue other ventures as they wish.

“While we maintain committed to retaining our talent and operational stability is of the utmost importance, we also appreciate that some colleagues may wish to embark on a new phase in their working lives and as such we have opened up a voluntary severance scheme for those who may wish to apply.

“The scheme will be limited in number and we will be replacing those who leave.”

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ARSONIST DIED AT HMP NORTHUMBERLAND AFTER BUNGLING NURSE THOUGHT HE WAS ASLEEP

The following article was published by Chronicle Live on 14th March 2017

Stroke victim Michael Hemsley died at the crisis-hit prison after a nurse failed to call an ambulance.

  

An arsonist serving a life sentence died of a stroke after a bungling nurse mistook his being unconscious for a deep sleep, a report has revealed.

Michael Hemsley, 84, had been locked up in crisis-hit HMP Northumberland since 2009.

The firebug had several chronic health conditions, including epilepsy, heart disease and high blood pressure.

On Sunday August 3 2014, a prison officer found Hemsley unresponsive in his cell and asked a nurse to assess him.
The nurse mistakenly said the inmate appeared to be in a deep sleep but the officer asked his manager to call an emergency ambulance.

The request was denied but two nurses had been called to reassess Hemsley urgently and called paramedics, who took him to hospital.

Hemsley died later that day.
A doctor at Wansbeck General Hospital certified his cause of death as a bleed from one of the blood vessels in the brain into a space within the skull, with underlying high blood pressure.

The nurse who initially checked him admitted he made a “significant error of judgement” and was subject to a separate inquiry.

The funeral of Hemsley, who was given a life sentence in March 2000 for arson with intent to endanger life, took place on August 18 2014, with the prison paying towards the cost.

A report into Hemsley’s death, carried out by Prisons and Probation Ombudsman Nigel Newcomen, found the prisoner had missed three hospital appointments due to a shortage of staff at the Sodexo-run prison.

It said: “We agree with the clinical reviewer that the man received generally appropriate primary healthcare treatment, including for high blood pressure, equivalent to that he could have expected to receive in the community.

“However, there was a lack of care plans for his chronic conditions and too many hospital appointments were cancelled because of a lack of staff for escorts. We are also concerned that the initial nurse assessment led to a delay in the man going to hospital as an emergency.

While there is no evidence that any of these matters would have affected the outcome for the
man, whose death would have been difficult to prevent, the investigation identified a need to ensure that all staff are fully aware of emergency procedures.

“There is also a need to inform families as soon as possible when a prisoner is seriously ill.”

Mr Newcomen made four recommendations including ensuring prisoners with chronic diseases have appropriate management plans, that inmates do not miss hospital appointments and that staff should call an ambulance immediately if they have serious concerns about the health of a prisoner.

He also said the next of kin of seriously ill prisoners are informed as soon as possible so they can visit them in hospital without delay.
All four recommendations were accepted.

Care UK were in charge of healthcare at the prison when Hemsley died.

A Care UK spokesperson said: “The report made a total of four recommendations, two of which related to the prison itself, one to the healthcare team and one to both organisations jointly.

We implemented a full action plan in response to these recommendations, to ensure that care plans for patients with chronic conditions are always both in place and communicated within the prison, and to work more effectively in partnership with the prison officers to ensure patients are able to attend hospital appointments even when there are insufficient prison staff to undertake these duties.

“We put in place a framework which benchmarks our healthcare services across prisons to continuously improve performance and compliance. We also worked with the prison to jointly improve the way in which emergencies are dealt with and ambulances called.”

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OUTBREAK OF FLU AT HMP NORTHUMBERLAND LANDS FOUR IN HOSPITAL AND SPARKS HEALTH WARNING

The following article was published by Chronicle Live on 12th March 2017

   


Four inmates at the Acklington jail were taken to hospital as prison staff try to stop the disease from spreading.

Bosses at HMP Northumberland say one inmate is still receiving treatment in hospital, while three others has been discharged.

Now, prison staff have introduced infection control measures to prevent the disease from spreading.

Members of the public heading to the Acklington jail are also being warned of the health risk ahead of their planned visits.

However, one woman says she is concerned that anyone visiting the jail could be put at risk.

She said: “It will quickly spread as visits are still going ahead where all the wings mix together.

“Prison officers are moving from wing to wing then going home to family and friends.

“The inmates are all getting uneasy because they don’t want family members coming into contact with someone harmful to their health.”

Dr Simon Howard, of the PHE North East’s health protection team, said: “We are working closely with the prison authorities to put appropriate measures in place to control spread of this infection to other inmates and staff.  
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THREE ACCUSED OF INTENDING TO SUPPLY HMP NORTHUMBERLAND WITH 'SPICE'

The following article was published by Chronicle Live on 11th March 2017

   


Three people are facing accusations they intended to supply a troubled North East jail with the drug spice.

Lindsey Kier, Ross Reay and Gary Weldon are also alleged to have taken cocaine, Jack Daniels and computer cables into HMP Northumberland.

Kier, 47, of St Lawrence Avenue, Amble, Northumberland, Reay, 27, of West View, Sunderland, and Weldon, 34, of Arthur Avenue, Sunderland, were at South East Northumberland Magistrates’ Court to face four charges each on Thursday.

Prosecutors said the trio were are accused of intending to supply the psychoactive substance, MMB Fubinaca, at the prison on November 27.

The charges they face are possessing a psychoactive substance with intent to supply and bringing/throwing/conveying list ‘A’, ‘B’ and ‘C’ prohibited items into a prison.

Because bringing a listed ‘A’ prohibited item into a jail, in this case allegedly cocaine, is so serious it can only be dealt with at the crown court, no pleas were taken.

Clare Irving, prosecuting, said, as all the charges were related, they should all be sent to Newcastle Crown Court.

She said: “I would be grateful if all matters could be sent.”

The three defending solicitors made no representations about where the case should be heard.

Kier, Reay and Weldon spoke only to tell the court their names, dates of birth and addresses during the brief hearing.

Magistrates released all three on unconditional bail to next appear at Newcastle Crown Court on April 6.

MMB Fubinaca is a synthetic cannabinoid and one of the many forms of ‘spice’, a name for some types of former legal highs, which have reportedly been plaguing British prisons.

In New York in July 2016, emergency services responded to a “mass casualty event” where 33 people were said to have taken MMB Fubinaca.

Bystanders described those who had taken it as “zombielike” and 18 were hospitalised.
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BUNGLING HMP NORTHUMBERLAND STAFF SEND JAILED SEX OFFENDERS' DETAILS TO TYNESIDE MUM-OF-TWO

The following article was published by Chronicle Live on 10th March 2017



A mum-of-two in Jarrow received 22 documents containing sensitive information about HMP Northumberland inmates.

Confidential details of dozens of inmates were mistakenly sent to a house after a blunder by prison staff.

The data included the names of prisoners at HMP Northumberland as well as names, addresses and contact details of their family and friends.

The paperwork - which landed on the doormat of a mum-of-two in Jarrow - also revealed which prisoners had signed up to the sex offenders’ register.

Now staff at the troubled jail, who they prison says sent out the information accidentally, have launched an investigation into the gaffe.

The mum, who received the 22 documents in the post, said she was shocked when she opened the envelope.
The 29-year-old, who asked to remain anonymous, said: “It is a massive breach of security and it is really worrying.

“They have a duty of care and how dangerous could it have been if it fell into the wrong hands?

“It has really opened my eyes to how vulnerable the prisoners are. It is a disaster waiting to happen.”

The woman believes she received the documents because her brother is currently behind bars at the jail.

After receiving the paperwork, she immediately contacted the prison.

The woman said: “I rang saying there was a little bit of a problem but they just said put it in the bin.

“I don’t know what to do as they could get into the hands of anyone.”

An HMP Northumberland spokesman said: “We take data security very seriously. We are investigating the matter.”

The gaffe comes weeks after an undercover investigation by the BBC revealed the prison, which is run by private company Sodexo, was embroiled in scandal.

Footage from inside the jail showed inmates high on drugs, prison blocks left unsecured and prison guards left fearing for their safety.

In one incident, a prison officer was filmed lying on the ground, shaking and suffering a fit after being affected by a cannabis-substitute drug that prisoners were smoking.

Officers also found the lags had balaclavas, black clothing and wire-cutting tools stashed inside the category C jail.

After the programme was aired, Wansbeck MP Ian Lavery called for the Government to sack Sodexo.

He said: “If you take prison officers away and increase the prison population, you don’t need to be a rocket scientist to see what the result will be.

“Everything from drugs to violence, to the fact that people are running cartels inside the prison, is a result of the lack of manpower.

He added: “The Government should look at making immediate plans to take the prisons that have been privatised back under state control.”

Sodexo said it was investigating the issues raised in the programme and would take appropriate action.

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PRISON: IT'S NO WORSE THAN ANY OTHER


The following 'Letter to the Editor' was published in the Northumberland Gazette on 9th March

 

"I am a member of staff at HMP Northumberland and felt a need to try to redress the balance a little after the recent negative press.

I have worked at the prison for several years, both when it was in the public sector and now it is private, and thought it was about time the views of the majority of staff were highlighted.

Yes, we would love more staff, who wouldn’t? But if the prison had stayed in the public sector, we would have less staff than we do now so it’s time the Press and ex-members of staff stopped blaming everything on Sodexo.

Things aren’t perfect. We would all love there to be no violence and no drugs, but it’s a prison. It’s no worse than any other prison in the country, and better than a lot.

The constant negative press and ex-members of staff and politicians calling for Sodexo’s contract to be cancelled is really not helpful and it’s not what most staff want.

A lot of staff, myself included, strongly believe that if these people got their wish and the contract was cancelled, the prison wouldn’t revert to the public sector, but would be closed down and we would lose our jobs.

Is that what they want? My plea to all is please help and support Sodexo and the hard-working staff at HMP Northumberland to improve, rather than trying to put us out of our jobs."

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NORTH EAST PRISON OFFICERS TO WITHDRAW FROM RIOT RESPONSE TEAMS OVER PAY DISPUTE

The following article was published by Chronicle Live on 28th February 2017

   

Prison officers across the North East are being urged to ‘work to rule’ after the Government failed to resolve a pay dispute.

Members of the Prison Officers Association (POA) will withdraw from voluntary duties, including their roles in the ‘Tornado’ teams which respond to rioting and disorder at prisons across the country.

An overtime ban will also be phased in from April, which experts say will leave prisons struggling.

But the Government has pledged to fight any action, describing it as “unlawful”.

North East POA representative Terry Fullerton called on members working at HMP Northumberland, HMP Frankland, HMP Low Newton and HMP Holme House to join the action.

He said: “We can’t get management around the table to discuss issues. The concerns that we have are being ignored.

“All we’re asking staff is not to do voluntary work. We’ve got 14,000 prison officers working who haven’t had a pay rise for four years.

“Prison officers feel they’re being taken advantage of and it is time to stop that.”

From Wednesday, staff are being instructed to withdraw from a range of voluntary roles, including working as a first aider or hostage negotiator.

However, the POA said its members would respond if lives were at risk.

The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) threatened to seek an injunction to ban industrial action.

An MoJ spokesperson said: “Industrial action by prison officers is unlawful. If the POA do not withdraw their bulletin, we will seek an injunction to prevent any such action occurring.

“We made a good offer to the Prison Officers Association in December, which was endorsed by their leadership but rejected by the POA membership.

“We are working hard to retain the invaluable experience within our workforce and want to recognise the expertise and dedication of prison staff.

“We announced last week progression opportunities and pay increases for over 2,000 experienced prison officers nationwide, and increased payments for frontline staff in areas where the cost of living is higher, taking salaries to an average of £30,000 a year.”

The row comes as the union claims the prison service is at crisis point, with violence reportedly reaching unprecedented levels.

Mr Fullerton said staff were working under the worst circumstances he had seen in his 27 years as a prison officer.

“We’re just human beings trying to do a job,” he said.
“These past five years have been the worst I have ever seen it in my 27-year career.”

In November last year, thousands of prison officers staged a 24-hour strike because of health and safety concerns.

North East prison crisis in numbers

There are now just 1,000 full-time prison officers in the North East’s six public sector prisons as of June 2016, down from 1,030 the previous year.

Five of the six prisons in the North East have seen a reduction in their staff levels over the past year. Only Low Newton in Durham saw an increase in prison officer numbers in the last 12 months, from 100 to 116
18.8% of prisoners at HMP Northumberland failed a drugs test last year, an increase from 14.3% the previous year

12.6% of inmates at HMP Durham tested positive for taking banned substances last year

Inmates at HMP Durham broke the rules 831 times in 2015, compared to 677 in 2014

Officers at HMP Northumberland dealt with 1,439 incidents of rule breaking in 2015 - one every six hours - which is an 84% rise in the number on 2014

The number of assaults at HMP Durham reached an all-time high in 2015, with 260 fights or attacks recorded.
HMP Northumberland says the number of assaults on staff rocketed from 15 to 35 from 2014 to 2015, with 289 fights or assaults recorded in total.
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NORTH SHIELDS MUM ACCUSED OF BRINGING DRUGS INTO HMP NORTHUMBERLAND FOR HER SON

The following article was published by the Northumberland Gazette on 26th February 2017

A mum has appeared in court accused of taking drugs into a troubled prison for her son.

Melissa Percival is alleged to have tried to sneak cocaine and buprenorphine tablets into HMP Northumberland during a visit in the weeks before Christmas last year.

The 43-year-old of Holywell Road, North Shields , has been charged with bringing, throwing or conveying an ‘A’ prohibited article into prison.
She appeared in the dock at South East Northumberland Magistrates’ Court on Thursday.

Because of the seriousness of the offence, no pleas were taken as the case can only be heard at the crown court.

Anna Barker, prosecuting, said the alleged offence happened on December 15.

Kash Khan, defending, made no representations about where the case should be heard.

Magistrates sent the case to Newcastle Crown Court and released Percival on bail to next appear on March 23.
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FURTHER CRITICISM HEAPED ONTO UNDER-FIRE HMP NORTHUMBERLAND

The following article was published by the Northumberland Gazette on 23rd February 2017

More horror stories about life at HMP Northumberland have emerged following the explosive BBC documentary which shocked viewers last week.

 

The BBC Panorama exposé, aired on Monday, February 13, gave a disturbing insight into the situation at the Acklington-based unit, which has been run by Sodexo Justice Services since December 2013.

The undercover report showed numerous problems at the Category C adult jail, including inmates high on drugs, lapses in security and staff struggling to cope.

After the show, the Gazette was contacted by numerous people who have heaped more criticism onto the jail.

Branding the prison ‘a joke’, a wife of one prisoner said: “My husband went into HMP Northumberland not addicted to any substance and is now reliant on drugs. The prison is overrun with mobile phones, drugs and violence.”

Two former prison officers at the jail, who did not want to be named, also contacted us.

One recalled numerous incidents of violence at the prison, saying that many members of staff have been assaulted, claiming that ‘the most shocking incident was when a female officer had a knife held to her throat, being dragged backwards’.

The other former guard, who spent more than two decades in the prison service, described his time at the jail following Sodexo’s takeover as the worst years of his career and said the prison became a horrendous place to work.

He said the shocking documentary scenes, captured by undercover reporter Joe Fenton, were ‘just the tip of the iceberg’.
He said that staffing cuts at the jail had been a major factor in the problems.

After the show, Sodexo vowed to investigate and take action. The company said that the safety and security of staff and prisoners was its top priority and added that the firm has invested more than £3million in a new fire system, additional CCTV and improved security technology.

Sodexo also said that the programme ‘mainly showed negative opinions and incidents, but it did not communicate the many positive actions and improvements that we have made at the prison to address these issues’.

The Ministry of Justice has also said that it will investigate.

Wansbeck MP Ian Lavery and county councillor Scott Dickinson called for Sodexo’s contract to be terminated, while Berwick MP Anne-Marie Trevelyan said she would do what she could to support staff at the prison.

Over the last few years, the prison has been hitting the headlines for all the wrong reasons.

In November, shocking video footage emerged showing prisoners partying in a cell rave and apparently high on drink and drugs.

Last summer, a report published by the Independent Monitoring Board raised a number of issues about the prison, listing substance misuse as its most serious area of concern. But the report did praise aspects of the jail and said that welcome and encouraging progress had been made on safety.
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INMATE HIGH ON 'SPICE' BROKE JAW OF RESPECTED PRISON OFFICER

 

The following article was published by the Chronicle Live on 15th February 2017

A prison officer at a troubled jail was left with a broken jaw when an inmate who had been taking legal highs all day attacked him.

James Taylor was serving an extended sentence for robbery and attempted rape at HMP Northumberland and was being held on a vulnerable prisoner’s wing.

A court heard he had spent the day smoking “spice” despite the fact he should have been confined to his cell as punishment for having prohibited items, including “spice”.

When well-liked prison officer Barry Smith told Taylor to get back in his cell, he gave him a “smarmy” look and refused.

As Mr Smith, who even Taylor admired, went to radio for back up, the drug-fuelled thug landed a heavy punch to the side of his face, knocking him to the floor and breaking his jaw, leaving him needing surgery and unable to chew for weeks.

A court heard the physical and psychological consequences for the victim have been dire and are ongoing.

Now 29-year-old Taylor, who admitted GBH, has had 14 months added to the lengthy sentence he continues to serve, currently at HMP Hull.
Judge Robert Spragg, at Newcastle Crown Court , told him: “He was a good officer who was well-liked by all inmates.

“He had to have surgery for a fracture to the right side of his jaw, his eye was closed due to the bruise and it could take up to two years for his injuries to heal.

“He had to have plates and screws inserted and a wisdom tooth removed and was on soft food for months.
“He has constant headaches, no longer feels safe in his job and feels betrayed by you.

“He is clearly someone who takes his job very seriously and takes great pride in his work.

“It would be an absolute tragedy if his career ended in this way.”

The court heard it was around 4.30pm on February 8 last year when Mr Smith was on the prison wing waiting to receive inmates returning from working.

He noticed Taylor standing at the bottom of some stairs in an association area, even though he was not meant to be out of his cell after being caught with “spice” and other banned items.

Prosecutor Michael Bunch said: “The prison officer was aware he was not supposed to be out of his cell at the time.

“He was asked why he was out of his cell. He was on basic security at the time for having prohibited items in his cell.

“He didn’t respond to that and is described as standing with a smarmy look on his face.”

When asked again, Taylor refused to comply and the prison officer went to radio for help.

Mr Bunch said: “The defendant took a step back with his left foot then punched him to the right side of the face.

“That blow knocked him straight to the floor.”

Mr Smith was found to have a fracture to the right side of his jaw, a graze to his forehead, swelling to his face and bruising to his eye which caused it to be closed.

Mr Bunch said: “As well as the physical consequences there have been greatly significant mental health consequences which continue to affect his ability to work in his profession.”

Taylor was arrested and interviewed by the police.
Mr Bunch said: “During interview he told the police he had been smoking spice all day.

“He said he was upset it was Mr Smith because he was one of the best officers in the prison.”

The court heard Taylor, who has 90 previous convictions, was jailed for eight years with a four year extended licence in 2013 for robbery and attempted rape.

Now he has been locked up for a further 14 months, which is to be added to the earlier sentence, meaning he must serve another five years and 11 months before he can be considered for parole.

Matthew Donkin, defending, said: “This was a single blow and he has demonstrated remorse and has written a letter of apology to the complainant.

“He does maintain he had taken the legal high in prison that day and he says it put him in a heightened state of paranoia.

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HMP NORTHUMBERLAND BOSSES DEFEND JAIL AFTER DRUG USE AND CHAOS CLAIMS IN TV PROGRAMME

 

The following article was published by the Chronicle Live on 14th February 2017

Bosses at an underfire North East prison where widespread drug use and violence by inmates was revealed by a Panorama programme have said they will investigate the allegations.

An undercover reporter spent two months at HMP Northumberland, which houses up to 1,348 male inmates, for the BBC documentary.

He discovered widespread drug use, a lack of control, door alarms that did not go off in one block and a hole in an internal security fence.

HMP Northumberland is run by Sodexo Justice Services. In a statement it said: “We take seriously the issues and concerns raised in the programme which will be investigated and we will take appropriate action.

“This programme highlights many of the issues – such as the impact of drugs and the rise of violence – that have increased in recent years across all prisons. The programme has mainly shown negative opinions and incidents but has not communicated the many positive actions and improvements that we have made at HMP Northumberland to address these issues.

“Security and the safety of our staff and prisoners are our top priority and we have invested over £3m in a new fire system, additional CCTV and improved security technology. We continually review the staffing levels at the prison and as a result have recruited an additional 37 staff.

“We have worked closely with law enforcement agencies which have resulted in significant success in preventing prisoners’ frequent attempts of illegal activity.

“Rehabilitation of prisoners is key for us and since taking on the contract to run Northumberland we have doubled the number of prisoner hours spent in work, education and vocational skills training.

“We are committed to supporting our staff who do a professional job in a very challenging and difficult environment.”

HMP Northumberland was privatised in 2013, when the government was aiming to cut £500m from the prisons budget.

To win the contract, French company Sodexo pledged to save the taxpayer £130m over 15 years. Two hundred jobs, including 96 prison officer posts, were cut.

At the time of the deal, the Prison Officers Association warned it could result in “escapes and riots” and described it as a “tinderbox jail”.

The programme was screened on Monday night and the Ministry of Justice has said it would investigate the “extremely serious allegations”.

The undercover reporter, who was working as a custody officer, was told by some staff they did not feel able to confront prisoners because they were worried back-up support would take too long to arrive.

During the secret filming, the reporter also recorded scenes including:
Prisoners incapacitated by drugs, officers sometimes left on their own to manage large groups of inmates and inmates threatening staff.

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UNDERCOVER FILMING REVEALS DISTURBING PRISON CHAOS

 


The following article was published by the BBC on 13th February 2017

Chaos in one of the biggest prisons in the country has been revealed in secret filming for the BBC.

An undercover reporter spent two months at HMP Northumberland, which houses up to 1,348 male inmates, for Panorama.

He discovered widespread drug use, a lack of control, door alarms that did not go off in one block and a hole in an internal security fence.

The Ministry of Justice said it would investigate the "extremely serious allegations" at the Acklington jail.

Prison officers also found balaclavas, blackout clothing and wire-cutting tools at the category C jail.

It is believed inmates had been sneaking out to collect drugs or other contraband thrown over the perimeter fence.

These discoveries were made in a block where inmates preparing to transfer to open prisons were not locked in their cells at night.

In one of the most disturbing episodes of the undercover investigation, footage shows a prison officer having convulsions on the floor after accidentally inhaling spice, a cheap and stronger synthetic alternative to cannabis, which is rife in the jail.

The undercover reporter, who was working as a custody officer, was told by some staff they did not feel able to confront prisoners because they were worried back-up support would take too long to arrive.

During the secret filming, the reporter also recorded scenes including:
- Prisoners incapacitated by drugs
- Officers sometimes left on their own to manage large groups of inmates
- Inmates threatening staff

The Panorama investigation comes days after the Ministry of Justice announced the replacement of the National Offender Management Service with a new prison and probation service aimed at cutting crime and reforming offenders.

HMP Northumberland is run by Sodexo Justice Services.

It was privatised in 2014, when the government was aiming to cut £500m from the prisons budget.

To win the contract, Sodexo pledged to save the taxpayer £130m over 15 years. Two hundred jobs, including 96 prison officer posts, were cut.
At the time of the deal, the Prison Officers Association warned it could result in "escapes and riots".

HMP Northumberland is a training prison that is meant to offer a range of education and training programmes to prepare inmates for release.

The Panorama reporter witnessed some inmates colouring in pictures of the children's cartoon character Peppa Pig in an "employability skills" class provided by an outside contractor, Novus.

It told Panorama it had investigated these concerns and sent a report to the government.

The president of the Prison Governors Association, Andrea Albutt, told the BBC previous staff cuts were behind the loss of control.

She said: "The situation is that there are so few prison officers at the moment - that their confidence has been affected and we have a more violent prison population."

Good quality staff-prisoner relationships, which yielded intelligence, had been hit by the lack of staff, she said.

The Ministry of Justice told the BBC: "The justice secretary has been clear that levels of violence and self harm in our prisons are too high, which is why we are investing an extra £100m annually to boost the front line by 2,500 officers.

"These are longstanding issues which will not be resolved in weeks or months but we are determined to make our prisons places of safety and reform."

A spokesman for Sodexo said: "We are proud of those staff at HMP Northumberland who do a professional job in such difficult circumstances.

"Security and the safety of our prisoners and staff are our top priority, which is why we have made significant investments in these two areas over and above the contract requirements."

As part of the investigation, Panorama analysed what prisoners had been saying about safety in prisons across England and Wales.

Panorama took HM Inspectorate of Prisons data on prisoners' perceptions and analysed it to reveal how fears have changed over the last decade.n availability of prison work in an HMIP survey from two years a
The calculations are a snapshot of what inmates said was happening at the time of the inspection.

Not every jail is inspected every year and conditions can change rapidly if a new regime or resources are introduced.

Sir Martin Narey, former head of the Prison Service and now a non-executive member of the Ministry of Justice's board, said: "The plain truth is that there are too few prison officers.

"If that reduction in number leads to a lack of confidence, then the great danger is some officers have retreated from interaction with prisoners to the ends of wings.

"That's very dangerous for the sort of prison service that we want."

Sir Martin believes that Justice Secretary Elizabeth Truss's pledge to recruit more officers would make a difference.

"We need to concentrate on recovering their confidence," he said.

"The disorder we've seen more recently reflects prisoner anger about reductions in regime."

"If you take people and lock them up and don't use that period to try to do something, then we're just losing a golden opportunity."

This was echoed by the Conservative MP and former prisons minister Crispin Blunt, who said: "We have got to get to a place where prison is used as a place to turn people around."
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GIRLFRIEND WHO SMUGGLED DRUGS AND PHONES TO PARTNER IN PRISON JOINS HIM BEHIND BARS

The following article was published by Chronicle Live on 12th February 2017

A woman caught smuggling drugs and mobile phones into a troubled prison has been put behind bars.

 
HMP Northumberland

Jade Howell was visiting her inmate boyfriend at HMP Northumberland when she was spotted handing over the contraband during a suspicious embrace.

Howell had started going out with an inmate while he was in custody and began visiting him at HMP Northumberland.

But a prison officer spotted them embracing in a suspicious manner and a search of the prisoner revealed he had been passed contraband.

Wrapped in cling film in his boxer shorts was a small amount of amphetamine, two mobile phones and three sim cards.

Howell claims the inmate took advantage of her when she was vulnerable after they began a relationship when he started writing to her from prison.

But now the 26-year-old has been sent to prison for six months at Newcastle Crown Court.

The court heard it was during a domestic visit by Howell on September 12 2015 that she tried to sneak the banned goods in.

Prosecutor Emma Dowling said: “She was seen to embrace him and it appeared to the prison officer that one or the other of those involved had put their hands down their trousers or lower garments.

“They were suspicious and once they had separated, they asked the prisoner to go to an area to be searched.

“In his boxer shorts they found a cling film and inside were two mobile phones, sim cards and a small amount of white powder.”

Howell initially denied any wrongdoing but her fingerprints were on the phones.

The court heard the prisoner has been disciplined on many previous occasions for receiving prohibited items in prison.

Miss Dowling said: “The defendant said she had been duped into taking items to him.

“He certainly received contraband on earlier occasions.”

Howell, of Dennis Street, Wheatley Hill, Durham, who has 23 previous convictions, including for possessing drugs, pleaded guilty to taking prohibited articles into prison and was jailed for six months.

Judge Amanda said a “deterrent sentence” was called for because of the disruption drugs cause in prison.

The court heard Howell has mental health issues and was “emotionally fragile” at the time.

She had started going out with the prisoner after he began sending her letters from behind bars and he asked her more than once to take items into prison.

He said if she didn’t, he would be attacked and she believed him.

Her solicitor said she now believes she was taken advantage of at a time when she was suffering from an unstable personality disorder.

The court heard Howell has been getting help for her problems and custody “would be devastating to her rehabilitation and would do more harm than good”.
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CRISIS AT HMP NORTHUMBERLAND TO BE EXPOSED IN BBC PANORAMA DOCUMENTARY


The following article was published by Chronicle Live on 9th February 2017

The scale of the problems at one of the North East’s biggest prisons will be laid bare in a TV investigation.

 

BBC Panorama went undercover at HMP Northumberland and says it will expose how inmates are effectively running the jail, while drugs and drink are rife behind bars.

Footage recorded inside the jail will also unveil how officers have been left fearing for their safety as they struggle to maintain control of the troubled prison, it is claimed.

In one incident, viewers will see a senior officer on the ground, shaking and having a fit after accidentally inhaling the drug spice being smoked by inmates.

A blurb for the programme says: “An undercover investigation reveals the reality of life behind bars in Britain’s crisis-hit prison system.

“Footage recorded by a reporter also working as an officer at a category C adult prison shows how inmates are effectively running the prison, with many of them off their heads on drugs and drink.

“It also reveals how prison officers don’t feel able to maintain control and how they are at risk themselves."

BBC Panorama says it found “little evidence” that prisoners were being rehabilitated, with drug addicts just simply changing the substances they smoke.

It also claimed that the inmates who could potentially change their ways are being ignored.

The programme will air on BBC One at 8.30pm on Monday, February 13.

HMP Northumberland has been embroiled in scandal since it was placed in the hands of private company Sodexo in December 2013.

Earlier this year, a former prisoner claimed it was “only matter of time” before a riot broke out and there are drug dealers on every house block selling Class A substances.

The 53-year-old, who has done five stretches at the jail totalling more than 22 years, said: “It is a nightmare the way the prison is being run. It is on its knees.”

The prison’s director Tony Simpson responded saying the jail is under control and running a safe and secure prison was their top priority.

A HMP Northumberland spokesman confirmed the prison would feature in the documentary but did not wish to comment further at this time. 

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SEVEN SUICIDES IN NORTH EAST JAILS AS PRISON DEATHS NATIONALLY REACH RECORD HIGH

The following article was published by Chronicle Live on 27th January 2017

The prison service has been accused of being in a 'crisis' following a rise in the number of self-inflicted deaths.

  

Seven people committed suicide while in prison in the North East in 2016, it has been revealed.

They were among a total of 119 self-inflicted deaths nationally - the highest number since records began in 1978.

According to data published by the Ministry of Justice, three people committed suicide at HMP Northumberland.  The other four were at HMP Durham, HMP Low Newton, HMYOI Deerbolt and Holme House in Stockton, Teesside.

Across England and Wales, deaths by suicide have risen by 32% from 2015, meaning on average one person killed themselves every three days last year.

The MoJ also reported a record high of 37,784 self-harm incidents and 25,049 assault incidents.

Frances Crook, chief executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform, said: “It is official – more people died in prisons in 2016 than in any other year on record, and more prisoners died by suicide than ever before.

“No one should be so desperate while in the care of the state that they take their own life, and yet every three days a family is told that a loved one has died behind bars.

“Cutting staff and prison budgets while allowing the number of people behind bars to grow unchecked has created a toxic mix of violence, death and human misery. The problems are clear for all to see.

“The Howard League is offering solutions and we have shown ministers how by taking bold but sensible action to reduce the number of people in prison.

“We can save lives and prevent more people being swept away into deeper currents of crime and despair.”

Justice Secretary Liz Truss said the figures were “very serious”, but she was dealing with the problem.

She said: “Since becoming Justice Secretary, I have been clear that the violence, self-harm and deaths in our prisons are too high.

“I have taken immediate action to stabilise the estate by tackling the drugs, drones and phones that undermine security.

“We are also investing £100m annually to boost the frontline by 2,500 officers.

“These are long-standing issues that will not be resolved in weeks or months but our wholescale reforms will lay the groundwork to transform our prisons, reduce reoffending and make our communities safer.”

The latest figures follow calls from prison governors in October for an independent public inquiry into the increase in violence and suicides in jails across the country.

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SEX OFFENDER WAS FOUND HANGED AT HMP NORTHUMBERLAND JUST MONTHS INTO JAIL TERM

The following article was published by Chronicle Live on 19th January 2017

Michael Joseph Mazzetti, of County Durham, was found suspended from a ligature in his cell by a fellow prisoner in 2014.



HMP Northumberland


A sex offender died after hanging himself in his cell, an inquest has heard.

Michael Joseph Mazzetti, of County Durham, was found hanged in his cell by a fellow prisoner at HMP Northumberland at 7.45am on September 1, 2014.

A two-day inquest at Berwick Town Hall heard he was pronounced dead at the scene at 8.40am, and a jury ruled Mazzetti had died from a “self-applied ligature”.

Mazzetti, a former carer, was jailed after pleading guilty to eight counts of physical and sexual assaults on three vulnerable adults in his care.

The 45-year-old had served just over three months of an eight-year sentence when he died.

An HMP Northumberland spokesman said: “Deaths in custody are a tragedy.

“As with all deaths in custody the prison and probation ombudsman investigated the incident, and we have since addressed the ombudsman’s recommendations.”

Last year, campaigners at the Howard League for Penal Reform claimed the number of suicides behind bars has reached “epidemic proportions”.

Three other people have ended their own lives in the Acklington jail between January to November in 2016 — the highest ever rate at the prison.

HMP Low Newton in County Durham and HMP Durham both recorded one death by suicide during the same period.

Nationally, figures revealed 102 prisoners have taken their own lives during the 10 month period — one every three days.

The Howard League for Penal Reform insists urgent action is needed to make prisons safer to reduce suicide risk.

A report published by the campaigners last year claims the rise in the number of prison suicides has coincided with budget and staffing cuts, as well as overcrowding in jails.

However, there is no suggestion these issues were linked to Mr Mazzetti’s death.

The Howard League for Penal Reform’s chief executive Frances Crook previously said: “The number of people dying by suicide in prison has reached epidemic proportions.

“No one should be so desperate while in the care of the state that they take their own life, and yet every three days a family is told that a loved one has died behind bars.

“Cutting staff and prison budgets while allowing the number of people behind bars to grow unchecked has created a toxic mix of violence, death and human misery.”

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PRISON STAFF SHORTAGES LEAVING JAILS UNDER 'SERIOUS AND SUSTAINED PRESSURE'

The following article was published by Chronicle Live on 12th January 2017

Privately run prisons are being urged to follow in the Government's footsteps by investing more resources in their jails.

       


Privately run prisons must recruit more staff to tackle violence and drugs in Britain’s creaking jails, a union has warned.

Steve Gillan, general secretary of the Prison Officers Association (pictured above - centre) said staffing cuts had put the prison system under “serious and sustained pressure”.

In November last year, Justice Secretary Liz Truss (pictured above - right) announced plans to hire extra 2,500 prison wardens across jails in the public sector.

She said violence in prison had reached “unacceptable” levels and reoffending rates are “far too high”.

Now the POA is calling on private companies to follow in the Government’s footsteps and invest more resources into their jails.

It comes after new figures show the number of full-time prison custody officers at HMP Northumberland has fallen by 40% since it was taken over by Sodexo in December 2013.

Mr Gillan said: “While we welcome the Government’s plan, staffing cuts are having a massive impact on both private and public sector jails.

“They don’t have enough staff to the basics of the job. Prisons are being run on the cheap and they are not being adequately run.

“We know private prisons are run to make a profit but they need to be run more effectively and efficiently and get the basics right.

“This is not happening at the minute because there is not enough staff who can help stop people from reoffending.”

Figures obtained from the Ministry of Justice show there were 318 full-time prison custody officers at HMP Northumberland in September 2013 - two months before it was privatised.

However, the number of staff dropped to 259 officers by January 2014 and today there are around 190 officers working at the prison.

Sodexo defended the fall in staffing numbers, saying some officers chose to take voluntary redundancy following the takeover.

A company spokesman said: “Since the voluntary redundancy process ended three years ago, the prison has consistently employed around 190 full-time equivalent custody officers.

“We continually review staffing levels to ensure we run a safe and secure prison, which remains our priority.”

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GATESHEAD MOTHER WHO SMUGGLED DRUGS TO HER SON IN PRISON WALKS FREE AFTER COURT HEARS HE HAS DIED

The following article was published by Chronicle Live on 10th January 2017

A mother who smuggled drugs into a troubled prison for her son has walked free after a court heard he has since died.

 
HMP Northumberland

Carole Shepherd was caught passing narcotics to her son while he was an inmate at HMP Northumberland.

Newcastle Crown Court heard the 34-year-old later died and was found with drugs in his system, although there is no evidence the package his mother gave him caused his death.

Now Shepherd, who said she was trying to help her son with debts by smuggling the drugs, has been spared the usual sentence of imprisonment for taking narcotics into prison, because of the tragic circumstances.

Recorder David Dobbin told her: “You thought, entirely wrongly, that you were assisting your son in some way in taking those drugs to him.

“The dangers of drugs in prison are known and have received considerable publicity of late.

“The dangers of drugs to your son are also apparent from what happened.”

The judge said that it’s not the case that the drugs Shepherd smuggled led to the death of her son.

He added: “But you knew or would have known that taking drugs into prison was something that was a criminal offence and is viewed very seriously by the court.

“In almost every case an immediate sentence of custody would follow. However I’m conscious of what happened in this case and the death of your son and how that affects the matter.

“In your particular case I can deal with you by way of a suspended prison sentence.”

The court heard Shepherd went on the visit to HMP Northumberland on March 19 last year.

Prosecutor Kevin Wardlaw said: “During the course of the visit the defendant was seen pass a package to her son.

“Prison officers approached the table where they were sitting and her son was seen to put in his mouth a package and swallow it.

“Recovered from the floor was diazepam which he had not been able to ingest.

“When the defendant was interviewed she fully admitted having passed something. It’s unclear exactly what had been passed to the defendant’s son.

“The defendant’s son is now deceased. A post mortem was carried out and a number of drugs of Class C were found in his system.

“The Crown cannot say when those drugs were taken or ingested by her son and what was in the package is known only to the defendant.”

When interviewed by police, Shepherd said she was trying to assist her son with debts he had in prison and also to help him with the stress of being locked up.

She admitted she had done it on a previous occasion.

Shepherd, 55, of Blake Walk, Gateshead, who has previous convictions for drugs and dishonesty offences, pleaded guilty to conveying a banned article into prison and possessing diazepam.
She was given four months suspended for 18 months with a rehabilitation requirement.

Kate Barnes, defending, said: “She suffers from a number of quite serious health complaints.

“She has been a user of drugs herself in the past following the loss of her employment due to health problems.

“Her actions were informed by a wholly misguided sense of loyalty to her son and pressure was being put on her to assist him in the prison community.

“This set of events has led to a most tragic outcome. She’s keen to stress she doesn’t seek to diminish the seriousness of her role in that.

“She has endured punishment outwith these proceedings.
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SPICE CHALLENGES AND VIOLENCE: Life inside 'powder keg' prison revealed by ex-inmate

The following article was published by Chronicle Live on 1st January 2017



A former prisoner, who served 22 years behind bars, lifts the lid on what life is really like at HMP Northumberland.

One of the North East’s biggest prisons is a powder keg timebomb “waiting to explode”, a former inmate has said.

The scale of the drug epidemic gripping HMP Northumberland, which has seen a turbulent three years since it was privatised, has been laid bare in a series of shocking revelations.

The cache of incidents at the 1,300-capacity clink includes a prisoner threatening a guard with a blade, while a huge haul of the banned legal high ‘spice’ has also been seized.

Now, a former inmate has lifted the lid on what life is really like behind the prison’s walls.

The 53-year-old, who wishes to remain anonymous, claims:

• It is “only matter of time” before there are similar scenes to the 12-hour riot at HMP Birmingham

• Inmates have been hospitalised after taking part in spice challenges, where they compete against each other to consume the most drugs

• There are drug dealers on every house block selling class A substances

• Drugs, mobile phones and trainers are being smuggled in through cereal boxes

• Violence is so rife it has left morale at the jail at an all time low.

The former prisoner, who has done five stretches at the jail totalling more than 22 years, said: “It is a nightmare the way the prison is being run. It is on its knees.”

The criminal claims it is “easy” to get drink and drugs behind bars and fears it could lead to riots similar to those which happened at HMP Birmingham in December.

Trouble flared at the privately-run jail for more than 12 hours after an officer was “rushed” by inmates.

At least 600 rioting prisoners took control of four wings, leading to it being described as the worst prison riot in a generation.

And when asked if the Acklington jail could face a similar outbreak, the former prisoner said: “There was a rumour it was going to go off.

“There is more violence now than there used to be and it is down to drugs. Violence is part and parcel of prison life but there is a negative cloud hanging over the jail.

“If it wasn’t for the old school staff and their man-management then it would have kicked off a long time ago.”

The former prisoner claims a “spice epidemic” is the cause of many violent incidents, which have left inmates and security guards severely injured.

Spice is a colourless substance which has a similar effect on the body to cannabis and is almost impossible to detect.

In one incident, the whistleblower claims two kilos of spice was smuggled behind bars in cereal boxes, along with an ounce of cocaine, two mobile phones and a pair of trainers.

He said: “There are drug dealers on every house block. Traditionally it has been weed and heroin but now its spice.

“Inmates are doing spice challenges, where they are seeing who can take the most, but some have collapsed and been left foaming at the mouth.

“The ambulance services is regularly in the prison and it is putting a strain on the service.”

The ex-con claims the number of violent incidents and drugs busts show Sodexo “is not fit” to run the prison.

He said: “These are big problems in private prisons and shows you can’t run them for profit. Morale is at an all time low and it is only going to get worse.

“People on the outside do not realise that being in prison is your punishment. Inside you’re entitled to your basic human rights and shouldn’t have to put up with this.”

A HMP Northumberland spokesman said: “All the claims made have been made previously in the public domain and we reiterate prisons are a challenging environment to manage.

“We continually review our staffing and procedures to ensure we run a safe and secure prison, which is our top priority.

“We have had tremendous success over the last few weeks in preventing banned items, such as drugs, getting into the prison.

“This is due to the hard work of our staff, who should be supported in their ongoing efforts.

“If anyone has any information which will assist us in tackling any form of crime within the prison, they should bring this to the attention of the prison or the police at the earliest opportunity.
_____________________________________________________________________________________________



PRISON OFFICERS HOSPITALISED AFTER INMATE SPARKS FIRE

The following article was published by ITV News on 23rd December 2016


HMP Northumberland

Three prison officers were taken to hospital after a jail inmate sparked a major fire in his cell.

Sean Rowe caused £1,500 worth of damage by torching a shelving unit and fuelling the flames with fabric while serving a sentence at HMP Northumberland.

The 25-year-old caused an ‘intense’ fire, which was made more dangerous due to a ventilation system in the prison not working at the time.

Prison officers tried extinguish the blaze within seconds but were overcome with smoke and had to be taken to hospital while fire crews tackled it.

One officer described the cell blaze as the worst he had seen in his 28 year career.

Newcastle Crown Court heard an entire wing had to be evacuated while the flames were extinguished by two fire crews.

The court heard at the time, Rowe was serving an 81 month sentence for an offence “of the type that can lead to bullying in the prison environment” and had requested to be transferred.

Rowe, who appeared for sentence via video-link to the same prison, was sentenced to another 20 months for arson.

Recorder Caroline Wigin told him:

"The consequences of you setting fire to your cell were that not only were the contents destroyed, but the people who came to help you, the prison officers who were on the scene within 30 seconds of the fire being started, several of them had to be taken to hospital because of the effects of smoke inhalation.

It seems the automatic ventilation system did not respond as it should, so these men doing a public duty, because of the smoke from the fire you had made, required hospital treatment.

I accept you were under pressure and stress at the time as a result of the type of offending you had committed and the reaction of fellow prisoners to that offending."


– CAROLINE WIGIN

The court heard inmates at HMP Northumberland had been locked in their cells at lunchtime on February 25 when Rowe started the fire.

Officers were alerted by a detection unit which showed his cell to be the source of the blaze.

Prosecutor Michael Bunch said:

"On looking through the spy hole they were able to see there was a fire burning in the corner of the cell and the cell was filled with smoke.

The fire was intense at that time and a prison officer with 28 years experience described it as the worst fire in a cell he had ever seen.

A shelving unit with a TV on it was on fire and in addition clothing and towels were stacked up in order to increase the size of the fire.

The defendant had his jumper covering his mouth and nose because of the smoke.

One officer took the defendant to a safe area and attempts were made to put the fire out with an extinguisher.

However the prison officer felt the effects of the smoke and was coughing and moved away."


– PROSECUTOR MICHAEL BUNCH

Three prison officers were taken to hospital for treatment while another was treated at the scene.

A fire investigation showed a ventilation system was not working properly as an extractor fan was jammed, increasing the risk the fire posed.

Mr Bunch said:

"The defendant had requested a move from that cell a week before the fire. That had not been possible.

When interviewed by the police, the defendant offered no account as to what had happened or why the fire had taken place."


– MICHAEL BUNCH

Rowe, formerly of West Wylam Drive, Prudhoe, was convicted of arson in his absence by magistrates after refusing to attend court.

The court heard he was jailed for 81 months in November 2014 for two offences on the same complainant but full details were not revealed during the latest hearing.

Paul Cross, defending, said:

"He got a very long sentence for an offence that can cause attention from others.

He wanted to move cell because he was having these problems.

He told the psychiatrist he intended to take his own life but then regretted it and was glad to be rescued.

If he risked anyone’s life it was probably his own.

He has some psychiatric problems and finds it difficult to control his temper."


– PAUL CROSS
____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________



WOMAN ARRESTED OUTSIDE HMP NORTHUMBERLAND WITH ALLEGED DRUGS STASH

The following article was published by ChronicleLive on 30th November 2016

 


An insider at the Acklington jail claims the 47-year-old woman worked in the kitchens at the troubled prison.

A woman has been arrested at the gates of the troubled HMP Northumberland .
Police said the 47-year-old was arrested on suspicion of being concerned in the supply of drugs on November 27.

An insider at the Acklington jail said the woman worked in the kitchens and was allegedly found with a “substantial quantity” of drugs when she was stopped and searched by police outside the prison.

The source said: “This was a civilian not a uniformed officer. It’s disgusting.”

A Northumbria Police spokesman said: “On Sunday, November 27, police attended HMP Northumberland in Acklington and arrested a 47-year-old woman on suspicion of being concerned in the supply of drugs.  She has been bailed pending further enquiries. Enquiries are continuing.”

A HMP Northumberland spokesman said: “This is a police investigation and it would be inappropriate to comment.”

The privately run prison has been embroiled in scandal since it was put under the control of Sodexo Justice Service in December 2013.

It has been previously described as a “powder keg” by Wansbeck MP Ian Lavery after multiple reports of attacks by prisoners and drug use.

In August, insiders claimed staff had “lost control of the jail” after two officers were attacked, with one suffering a suspected broken jaw and fractured eye socket.

The vicious assaults came just months after an inmate allegedly took one guard hostage and threatened another with a blade.

And earlier this week, campaigners warned that the number of suicides at the prison had reached “epidemic proportions”.

It came after three people ended their own lives in the troubled institution this year — the highest-ever rate since private company Sodexo took over management.

Mr Lavery previously called on the firm to “step up” and invest in its facilities or return the prison to public control.

He said: “There is clearly a pattern of underfunding and understaffing at Sodexo prisons. This is a natural consequence of the Conservative vision for prisons.

“It is a vision of prisons run for private profit instead of serving the public by rehabilitating offenders.

“We need a prison system that supports staff and provides opportunities for rehabilitation, not one that drives up reoffending and leaves staff dangerously isolated.”

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CONCERNS RAISED BY TYNESIDE INMATES SET TO BE HIT WITH EXTRA JAIL TIME

The following article was published by ChronicleLive on 28th November 2016

    

Tyneside inmates are set to be hit with extra jail time after posting pictures from jail cell online.

Michael McLaughlin, of Wallsend, and Brian Boak, of Walker, have posted pictures of themselves inside their prison cells in HMP Northumberland.
 
A string of posts to social media show muscular McLaughlin proudly shows off his cell at HMP Northumberland posing inside with the message “Another day in paradise”.

In another disturbing photo, from what appears to be a similar cell, a male is holding a syringe.
‘Boaky’ appears in a picture alongside with his thumbs up in front of a clearly barred window, while the defiant pair are also pictured together with their thumbs in the air.

And on November 22, at 11.15pm, McLaughlin sticks two fingers up to authority when he posts “Micky McLaughlin checked in to HMP Northumberland” in Acklington, along with a map pinpointing to his whereabouts.

The lags, using an illegal mobile phone, have been posting from the troubled Acklington jail and thanks to our investigation both could be set to be given extra jail time.

The government’s National Offender Management Service (NOMS) seized 7,451 mobile phones and Sim cards in prisons in England and Wales in 2013, in the same year 130 phones were seized from HMP Northumberland alone.

McLaughlin, 27, of Stanley Street, Wallsend was jailed on June 29 at North Tyneside Magistrates Court for breach of a restraining order against a woman.

He was jailed for 26 weeks and a further 38 weeks to run consecutively after a suspended sentence was activated for harassment, assault, sending threatening messages and criminal damage. He was jailed for 64 weeks in total.

Boak was banged up on September 11 after he caused the death of his close pal by “racing” in his newly souped-up car.

He was testing out modifications made to his recently-bought VW Golf when he started driving “competitively” in Wallsend.

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CONCERNS RAISED BY CAMPAIGNERS OVER SUICIDE RATE AT TROUBLED PRISON

The following article was published by ChronicleLive on 28th November 2016


  

Campaigners the Howard League for Penal reform demanded action, as it is revealed that the UK-wide prison suicide rate is higher than ever before

The number of suicides behind bars has reached “epidemic proportions”, campaigners warned today.

And in “powder keg jail” HMP Northumberland, self-inflicted deaths are at an all-time high under current managers.

Three people have ended their own lives in the troubled institution so far this year — the highest-ever rate since private company Sodexo took over management.

The privately run prison has been described as a “powder keg” in the past by Wansbeck MP Ian Lavery, after multiple reports of attacks by prisoners and drug use inside emerged.

An HMP Northumberland spokesperson said: “Death in custody is a tragedy, affecting families, staff and other prisoners. We work with the prisons and probation ombudsman and the police to investigate all deaths in our care.”

The North East’s women’s prison, Low Newton, in County Durham, recorded one death by suicide among its 336 inmates this year, as it did in both 2013 and 2015. In 2014, no suicides were recorded at the prison.

Bucking a national trend, suicides actually decreased in HMP Durham this year, as one person lost their life, compared to the prison’s high of three self-inflicted deaths in 2013.

However, the 1017-bed institution had a fairly high number of suicides across the four-year period recorded, with a total of eight deaths in that time.

Nationally, figures show 102 prisoners have taken their own lives so far in 2016 — one every three days.

With five weeks remaining until the end of the year, the Howard League for Penal Reform say this is already the highest death toll in a calendar year since current records began in 1978.

The previous high was in 2004, when 96 deaths by suicide were recorded.

The charity insists that urgent action is needed, and that prisons must become safer, healthier places to reduce suicide risk.

A report published by the campaigners claims that the rise in the number of prison suicides has coincided with cuts to staffing and budgets and a rise in the number of people in prison, resulting in overcrowding.
______________________________________________________________________________________________

INMATE AVOIDS EXTRA JAIL TIME AFTER ASSAULTING PRISON OFFICERS

The following article was published by ChronicleLive on 23rd November 2016

Anthony Dean Wilson, 36, spat at prison officers and tried to drag them into his cell, Newcastle Magistrates Court heard.

  

HMP Northumberland

A prisoner who assaulted three prison officers at HMP Northumberland has avoided extra time behind bars at Newcastle Magistrates Court.

Anthony Dean Wilson, 36, from Jarrow, is serving a seven year sentence for robbery and was being held at the trouble-hit jail in May when he attacked three prison officers.

Newcastle Magistrates Court heard on Tuesday that Wilson tried to drag one prison officer into his cell then spat at two other officers who tried to take metal cutlery from him.

Prosecuting Laura Lax said: “The officers were serving breakfast when it is described that the defendant grabbed a prison officer by the arm and tried to pull him into the cell.

“The prison officer managed to stop him and close the cell door. While in the cell the defendants behaviour continued to be erratic and aggressive.

“The officers went into the cell to try and take the metal cutlery from him when he grabbed the kettle which had just boiled and spat in the face of one prison officer.”

Miss Lax said that the prison officer had to have blood tests for hepatitis after the attack.

She added: “Mr Wilson admitted the incident but said the officers were heavy handed.”

Wilson was not represented by a solicitor during the hearing and appeared in court via a videolink from HMP Holme House in Stockton-Upon-Tees.

He said: “I didn’t know about this court case, I don’t even know what I am here for.

“I’ll just plead guilty, what is it? A section four? I just want to get it all dealt with today.”

Despite pleading guilty Wilson told the court he didn’t try and drag the prison officer into the cell and said he has bruises of his cheek and kick marks on his back after the incident.

“I am sorry, it just happened, it’s not the way ti has been said but I am not going to win a case like this so I am just going to plead guilty.”

Chairman of the bench, Margaret Hall told Wilson he would be given a conditional discharge for 18 months after hearing he would not be considered for release from prison on his current sentence until next summer at the earliest.

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"WHERE ARE THE GUARDS?" MURDER VICTIM'S ANGER AS LAGS FILMED 'HIGH ON DRINK AND DRUGS' IN PRISON RAVE

The following article was published by The Sunday People on 5th November 2016

Hardened lags openly booze and chop lines of white powder at HMP Northumberland, in video exclusively obtained by the Sunday People.

   

Sickening new footage of prisoners apparently high on drink and drugs in a so-called cell rave today heaps shame on Britain’s creaking prison service.

A murderer and multi-million-pound drug dealers openly booze and chop lines of a white powder, claimed to be cocaine, in the video obtained exclusively by the Sunday People .

The shaven-headed criminals - dressed in shorts and bright T-shirts - look like they are at a festival as they pump their fists, cheer and shout along to thumping nightclub music without a prison officer in sight.

One of the hardened lags at HMP Northumberland making a mockery of the justice system is David Ramshaw, 46, who is serving life for the brutal murder of dad-of-five John Seccombe.

After seeing our shocking video, John’s daughter Danielle, 31, said: “Where are the prison guards who are supposed to be dealing with these scumbags? It’s disgusting that this is being allowed to happen.

“David Ramshaw admitted to ­murdering my dad and he is standing there grinning and having a good time with his mates.

“How is that punishment? How is it a deterrent to him re-offending when he gets out?”

HMP Northumberland is run by Sodexo, a private company enlisted by the Ministry of Justice.

This week Justice Secretary and Lord Chancellor Liz Truss refused to admit there is a prisons crisis, even though she is reversing previous Government staff cutbacks following a sharp increase in jail violence.

A Sodexo insider admitted: “This is not just a problem in Northumberland, it’s in every prison. There have been so many videos like this one.”

In our video, one of the wide-eyed mob flares his nose as he bellows: “This stuff’s not working.”

It’s difficult to see how that can be the case as another who is stripped to his football shorts cannot keep still as he grins from ear to ear.

Paul Richardson, who was jailed for seven years and nine months for conspiracy to supply cocaine, acts as the master of ceremonies.

The bare-chested thug eggs on his jailed pals and then quips: “I’m here for a giggle.”

And one of the other inmates carefully sorts out a line of white powder on a chest of drawers.

Other grinning gangsters stare into the camera as it pans around the room and repeatedly shout: “Hello, son. Lovely jubbly.”

But the film brought back terrible memories for Danielle Seccombe.

Her dad John, 53, a ­former Army chef, was battered to death by David Ramshaw and his brother James, now 31, as he walked his dog in Newbiggin-by-the-Sea, Northumberland, in 2005.

Danielle said: “It makes me so angry.

“It doesn’t look as though any of them are remorseful for anything they have done.

“It looks as if they are getting free rent, free food, free drink, free ­accommodation and free fun.

“My dad was a hard-working man. For him to be killed and them to be in there partying is outrageous. Words can’t describe what I feel.”

The mum of four still does not know the full circumstances that led to her father’s murder.

The Ramshaws denied the killing at first but changed their plea to guilty as they were about to go on trial at Newcastle crown court.

Danielle said: “It looks like they are living it up. What I want to know is where are the guards? They can’t be stupid enough to not know it’s going on.

“With all that music, drugs and alcohol, clearly that whole prison needs to be under investigation.

“Obviously the guards don’t care because it didn’t happen to their dad.

“I can’t understand the justice system in this country. Life should mean life and not living it up like this.

“I know that drugs can get into prison and that alcohol gets made in prison, but it depends on how lenient the prison is.

“It’s down to the searches they do and how much they really care. That prison clearly doesn’t.

"You would have to be an idiot not to know what was going on in that cell.”

Among other inmates living it up is Kevin Hewson, doing eight years for plotting to supply Class A and B drugs.

Grinning Alex Caldwell got 11 years in 2013 for his part in a ­£200million drug ring.

Shaun Monaghan was 34 when he was jailed for eight years in 2014 for leading a gang of drug dealers who made £500,000 selling them around the North East of England.

Liam Watson got eight years for conspiracy to supply cocaine and growing cannabis.

Local Labour MP Ian Lavery says partners of staff are regularly in touch with him over fears that their loved ones will not come home from HMP Northumberland, which holds 1,348 prisoners. Bosses Sodexo had to fork out £1million to replace all the locks after a guard was kidnapped, threatened with a bladed weapon and had his keys stolen during a riot this year.

And last month £3.5million of synthetic cannabis, known as Spice, was found.

Mr Lavery claimed Sodexo had slashed the number of staff from 440 to 270. He said: “I dread calls about the prison because I fear the worst.

“It is easier to buy drugs like Spice inside our prisons than on the streets.

“Police and ambulance crews are regularly called out there.”

He ­added: “You really have to look at the staffing and funding there. When Sodexo took over two years ago they reduced staffing levels by a third.

“The governor has told me they are working hard to get more staff in. But in the meantime there are serious problems.”

Liz Truss this week admitted the prison system is under “serious and sustained pressure” and pledged 2,500 extra officers.

A Ministry of Justice spokesman confirmed the footage had been taken in HMP Northumberland but declined to show it to Ms Truss.

He said: “The Justice Secretary has announced a major overhaul of the prison system. We are putting 2,500 extra officers on the front line and introducing new safety measures that will help crack down on drugs, drones and mobile phones, which are imperilling the safety of staff and offenders and thwarting reform.”

Sodexo said “appropriate action” had been taken over our shocking revelations.

They added: “The use of mobile phones, drugs and other illicit items is a challenge across the whole prison estate. Staff at HMP Northumberland work very hard to successfully ­prevent these items getting in.

“In the coming weeks we will be introducing new technology to help combat this problem.”

Voice of the Sunday People: Staff shortages cripple the system

Everyone is disgusted by pictures of drunk and drugged-up prisoners enjoying a party.

But the real problem is how this has been allowed to happen.

Of course prisoners should not be drinking or taking drugs while they are behind bars. Yet the harsh reality is that alcohol and illicit substances are rife.

And the reason is simple: To stop drink and drugs coming into prisons, staff need to be able to carry out proper searches. But there aren’t enough staff.

It seems like every week we hear about another alarming incident in another jail. There are suicides, assaults and drug overdoses.

And prison officers say the same thing every time – there are not enough staff to do their jobs properly.

We are at a crossroads for Britain’s prison system. When Michael Gove was Justice Secretary he announced a wide-ranging programme designed to improve the system.

He wanted an emphasis on well-run prisons encouraging rehabilitation. But those initiatives have been forgotten.

The country is still stuck with overcrowded, understaffed and underfunded jails.

We need the Government to commit to a full overhaul. Prison should be a punishment. A deterrent. But it shouldn’t be dangerous – not for staff or for inmates. And at the moment it is.

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PRISONER RAPED IN SHOWERS BY FELLOW CON WITH RAZOR-BLADE SHANK

The following article was published by The Mirroe on 5th November 2016

     

A vulnerable prisoner was raped at knifepoint by a fellow inmate who was “off his head” on drugs in a troubled jail.

Graham Lindo lured the victim into his cell after he had been to the showers then locked the door and pulled out a homemade weapon fashioned from a toothbrush and razor blade.

A court heard the 27-year-old threatened to cut man’s throat before orally raping him.

Now Lindo, who has spent almost all of his life in custody since the age of 16, has been jailed for six years and ordered to sign the sex offenders register for life after pleading guilty to rape.

Recorder Bernard Gateshill, at Newcastle Crown Court, told him: “You chose to threaten and terrorise a fellow prisoner.

“You brought him into your cell, locked the door and threatened him with a knife you had made yourself.

“This must have been a terrifying experience for him.

“He was a vulnerable victim at the time and he now feels more vulnerable and less confident.

“He has been greatly upset by your attack upon him.

“The pre-sentence report on you suggests you are a dangerous offender and you pose a serious risk to others of harm by offences of a sexual and violent nature.”

As reported by the Evening Chronicle, the court heard the victim had been to the showers at HMP Northumberland in March, when he walked past Lindo’s cell.

Jonathan Devlin, prosecuting, said: “The defendant asked him to enter his cell and he did so and sat down on his bed.

“The defendant took up a position with his back to the door, which he then locked from the inside and took from his pocket a toothbrush with a razor blade melted into the handle.”

Lindo then told the victim if he didn’t do what he wanted he would “cut your throat” and threatened to stab him.

The man was then raped while Lindo continued to hold the blade in his hand.

Mr Devlin said: “The complainant then pushed him away because he began to feel sick and he ran back to his cell where he cried.”

The victim said of his ordeal: “What Lindo has done to me has really made me feel vulnerable and lose confidence.

“It greatly upset me and I sometimes can’t sleep.”

When Lindo, of no fixed address, was interviewed about the attack, he said he couldn’t remember anything because he was “off his head on spice”.

The court heard he has spent most of his adult life in custody.

In 2005 he was locked up for six years for attempted robbery and wounding with intent and in February 2010 he was jailed for seven years at Teesside Crown Court for conspiracy to supply class A drugs.

Julian White, defending, said: “He has been in custody effectively since the age of 16. He has spent a very very small amount of time at liberty, a matter of weeks, and he is truly institutionalised.

“He had been taking the drug spice, which is prevalent, apparently, in prison.

“Since this offence the realisation this is a sexual offence and all the stigma that comes with that, has had a profound impact on him. He says he is a changed man.

“He can’t understand what on earth possessed him to commit this offence.

“He recognises the impact on the victim and he is sorry for what he did.
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HMP NORTHUMBERLAND FORK OUT £1 MILLION BILL TO CHANGE LOCKS AFTER GUARDS KEYS ARE STOLEN

The following article was published by The Express on 27th October 2016

PRISON bosses were forced to spend up to £1million on changing all the locks – after a warder was allegedly taken hostage and had his KEYS stolen.
   

Insiders at HMP Northumberland claim a warder was put in a headlock by an inmate and dragged into a cell in April, before having his keys swiped.

Now the firm which runs the mens' prison revealed it had to “review security systems” and change the locks at an estimated cost of more than £500,000.

But moving prisoners to allow the lock change means the cost of the entire re-fit would have cost up to £1million, according to the Prison Officers' Association (POA).

Prison firm Sodexo Justice Services would not confirm details of the alleged key theft, but said a guard had been assaulted and an investigation was under way.

Glyn Travis, the assistant secretary of the POA, said: “There has been some significant incidents there involving staff and assaults.

“A refit of locks in a prison of that size would cost anything from £500,000 to £1million. Changing the locks is around £500,000 to £600,000.

“But there is the added cost of moving of prisoners around. It normally takes around five days to re-lock.

“When you take that into account, a total cost of £1million is probably about right.“

A spokesman for HMP Northumberland in Morpeth said: “Following an incident we reviewed our security systems and all necessary changes have since been made.

“The incident itself is subject to a police investigation.”

The Acklington jail has been embroiled in scandal since it was put under the control of Sodexo in December 2013.

Just days before the guard was allegedly attacked, an inmate managed to escape from staff during a visit to Cramlington Hospital.

The 36-year-old man gave officers the slip and allegedly made a getaway on a stolen motorbike, but was arrested in Wallsend around two hours later.

In August, a warder was left with a suspected broken jaw and fractured eye socket after he was “jumped” while working on the sex offender unit.

And this month, a stash of the banned psychoactive substance spice was seized at the prison with insiders estimating the haul had a value of almost £1million.


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FAMILIES OF PRISON STAFF AT TROUBLED JAIL 'FEAR THEY WON'T RETURN HOME'

The following article was published by ChronicleLive on 22nd October 2016

MPs and unions fear it is only a matter of time before a prison guard is killed, after the largest drugs find ever in a UK jail was discovered

  
HMP Northumberland at Acklington Northumberland

The lives of prison staff are being put at risk by savage Government cuts, a North East MP has warned.

MPs and unions fear it is only a matter of time before a prison guard is killed due to the crisis in our jails.

The dire warning came after the discovery of £3.5m worth of the drug ‘Spice’ in HMP Northumberland - believed to be the biggest drugs find ever in a UK jail - and a stabbing left one inmate dead and two others in a critical condition in Pentonville prison in London.

The latest figures show there were 100 apparently self-inflicted deaths at prisons in England and Wales in the year to March, the highest for more than a decade.

There were more than 20,000 assaults - 2,813 deemed “serious” - in the 12 months to December, a rise of 27% year-on-year.

Official MoJ stats also revealed nearly 5,000 attacks on staff - a jump of more than a third compared to 2014.

And Wansbeck Labour MP Ian Lavery has told how partners of prison staff are regularly in touch with him, worried that their loved ones “are not going to come home” from HMP Northumberland.

Sodexo, the private firm which runs the jail, had to fork out £1m to replace all the locks after a guard was kidnapped, threatened with a bladed weapon and had his keys stolen during a riot this year.

Mr Lavery said: “I dread taking a call about the prison because I fear the worst. I am contacted regularly by civilian staff, prisoners, prison officers and their partners about the conditions inside.

“The partners are worried their loved ones are going to go off to a shift and not come back. It has got to the stage where it is easier to buy drugs like Spice inside our prisons than it is out on the streets.

“The latest drugs find was huge, and you have to ask how that is getting in there. The chaos and violence inside the prison has a knock on effect for communities on the outside.

“Police and ambulance crews are regularly called out there and obviously if an ambulance is there, it cannot deal with emergencies elsewhere. It is a powder keg.”

He added: “You have to look at the staffing and funding. When Sodexo took over two years ago, they reduced staffing levels by a third.

“The governor has told me they are working hard to get more staff in. But in the meantime there are serious problems.”

The jail, which holds 1,348 men, was put on lock down during the disturbance in April.

Violence flared after a 36-year-old prisoner escaped while receiving treatment at nearbyCramlington Hospital. Two prison officers involved in that incident have since been sacked.

In August, two officers were attacked, one suffering a suspected broken jaw and fractured eye socket.

Glyn Travis, the Prison Officers Association assistant secretary, said drugs and violence were the reality behind bars in the public and private sector which “our members deal have to deal with on a daily basis”.

“There is chronic under funding and not enough staff,” he added. “The Spice at HMP Northumberland was worth £350,000 but would have cost 10 times that out on the street. We believe it is the biggest find in a UK jail.”

    
HMP Northumberland at Acklington Northumberland

An HMP Northumberland spokesman confirmed staff recovered a significant amount of drugs during a pre-planned and pro-active operation at the prison.

“We take safety and security extremely seriously and this recovery demonstrates the vigilance and professionalism of staff in successfully disrupting illegal drug supply,” he said.

“A police investigation is now under way therefore it would be inappropriate to comment further.”

The MoJ said safety was “fundamental to the proper functioning of our justice system and a vital part of our reform plans”.

A spokesman added: “We are fully committed to addressing the significant increase in violence, self-harm and self-inflicted deaths in our prisons.”

Two men, aged 34 and 26, have been arrested in connection with the Pentonville incident.

The number of officers in public sector prisons was cut by 41% between 2010 and 2014, according to MoJ figures.

They showed 14,170 officers working in public sector prisons in June 2014, compared to more than 24,000 at the end of August 2010.

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PRISON OFFICERS UNCOVER £350,000 STASH OF DRUGS IN BIGGEST FIND EVER AT UK JAIL

The following article was published by The Mirror on 18th October 2016

Five kilos of the pyschoactive Spice were found at crisis-hit HMP Northumberland - which was forced to spend £1million changing all its locks after keys were stolen from a guard

 
The drugs were uncovered by guards at HMP Northumberland

Prison officers uncovered a £350,000 stash of drugs in what is believed to be the biggest ever find at a UK jail .

The five-kilo haul of the psychoactive substance Spice is a sign of a ‘full scale smuggling operation’ at HMP Northumberland, according to the Prison Officers Association.

It warns the huge trade in drugs at the privately-run jail is contributing to rioting, violence and repeated attacks on guards.

Glyn Travis, the union’s assistant secretary, believes the Spice – which sells at around £25 for a bag behind bars – would have a street value of £3.5m outside prison walls.

The alarming discovery, made by guards using sniffer dogs, comes after heroin was found hidden in mattresses at the prison in Acklington, Northumberland earlier this year.

Mr Travis said: “It is a tribute to the dedication and supervision of our staff that the drugs were spotted.

“But you have to question how that volume got into the prison in the first place. It is because prisons are being starved of resources.

“I believe there should be a proper public inquiry into how they got in there. This is the reality of what is happening behind bars in the public and private sector and our members deal have to deal with it on a daily basis.”

  
HMP Northumberland has been hit with problems recently

He added: “We believe this is the biggest find of drugs ever in a UK prison. The street value is probably around ten times the £350,000 that you get behind bars for this drug.


“You are talking about five kilos which is too much to get into the prison using drones. This is full-scale smuggling, you could not get this amount on the inside otherwise.”

Insiders claim that the find earlier this month will lead to revenge attacks in the criminal underworld. “They will be asking how this was found,” said a source. “It is a lot of money to lose. It is organised crime and there will be debts paid beyond the prison walls.”

The Mirror told today how HMP Northumberland was forced to spend up to £1m changing locks after a guard’s keys were stolen during a riot in April .

Inmates took one guard hostage and threatened another with a blade a day after a fellow con escaped from hospital on a stolen motorbike.

Riot-hit prison spends £1MILLION changing locks after guard is taken hostage and has keys stolen

Local Labour MP Ian Lavery has warned of chaos at the jail in recent months due to low staffing levels and poor conditions.

The warder was allegedly put in a headlock by angry lags, dragged into a cell and his keys stolen. The prison had to change locks at an estimated cost of £1m. The jail, which holds 1,348 men, was put on lockdown during the disturbance in April.

Violence flared after a 36-year-old prisoner escaped while receiving treatment at nearby Cramlington Hospital. Two prison officers involved in that incident have since been sacked.

In August, two officers were attacked, one suffering a suspected broken jaw and fractured eye socket. Wansbeck Labour MP Ian Lavery has voiced his concerns about the welfare of staff at five UK jails run by Sodexo Justice Service.

“There is clearly a pattern of under funding and understaffing at Sodexo prisons,” said Mr Lavery. “This is a natural consequence of the Conservative vision for prisons. It is a vision of prisons run for private profit instead of serving the public by rehabilitating offenders.”

An HMP Northumberland spokesperson said: “Staff recovered a significant amount of drugs during a pre-planned and pro-active operation at the prison.

“We take safety and security extremely seriously and this recovery demonstrates the vigilance and professionalism of staff in successfully disrupting illegal drug supply.

“A police investigation is now underway therefore it would be inappropriate to comment further.

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RIOT-HIT PRISON SPENDS £1MILLION CHANGING LOCKS AFTER GUARD IS TAKEN HOSTAGE

The following article was published by Chronicle Live on17th October 2016


Inmates at HMP Northumberland took a guard hostage and threatened another with a blade


A riot-hit prison spent up to £1million getting locks changed after a guard was taken hostage - and his keys stolen .

HMP Northumberland is still facing violence and drugs problems, according to prison officers and the local MP.

Inmates took one guard hostage and threatened another with a blade a day after a fellow con escaped from hospital on a stolen motorbike.

Insiders at the privately run jail say there has been chaos in recent months due to low staffing levels and poor conditions.

In the riot earlier this year, a warder was allegedly put in a headlock by angry lags, dragged into a cell and his keys stolen.

 
Two prison officers have been sacked after one recent incident

The prison had to ‘review security systems’ and change locks at an estimated cost of more than half a million pounds.

Moving prisoners from cells during a ‘re-lock’ means the cost of the entire operation can rise to £1million, according to the Prison Officers’ Association (PoA).

Violence flared at the jail near Acklington, Northumberland, after a 36-year-old prisoner escaped while receiving treatment at nearby Cramlington Hospital. Two prison officers involved in that incident have since been sacked.

Glyn Travis, assistant secretary of the Prison Officers Association, said: “There has been some significant incidents there involving staff and assaults.

The jail, which holds 1,348, was put on lock down as bosses cancelled visits

“A re-fit of locks in a prison of that size would cost anything from £500,000 to £1 million. Changing the locks is around £500,000 to £600,000.

“But there is the added cost of moving of prisoners around. It normally takes around five days to re-lock.

“When you take that into account, a total cost of £1m is probably about right.”

‘Underlying problems’ include drugs, violence and chronic staff shortages, he added.

The jail, which holds 1,348 men, was put on lock down as bosses cancelled visits during their probe into the disturbance in April. The bill for changing the locks is met by Sodexo, which runs the prison, not the Ministry of Justice.

Wansbeck Labour MP Ian Lavery has voiced his concerns about the welfare of staff at five UK jails run by Sodexo Justice Service. In August, two HMP Northumberland officers were attacked, one suffering a suspected broken jaw and fractured eye socket.

  
The jail, which holds 1,348, was put on lock down as bosses cancelled visits

“There is clearly a pattern of under funding and understaffing at Sodexo prisons,” said Mr Lavery. “This is a natural consequence of the Conservative vision for prisons.

“It is a vision of prisons run for private profit instead of serving the public by rehabilitating offenders.”

A Sodexo spokesman said of HMP Northumberland: “Following an incident in April we reviewed our security systems and all necessary changes have since been made. The incident itself is subject to a police investigation.”

A ‘robust approach’ to monitoring safety is continually reviewed. “We have a good record of positive prisoner staff relationships and recently participated in the violence reduction initiative in the use of body worn video cameras and these are now being rolled out,” he added. “Safety is always a priority and we have a number of plans in place to address this issue.”

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HUGE HAUL OF 'SPICE' DRUG SEIZED INSIDE HMP NORTHUMBERLAND

The following article was published by Chronicle Live on 9th October 2016

Wansbeck MP Ian Lavery says artificial drugs in jails is an epidemic that is consuming the prison system across the UK.

    

An investigation is underway after a stash of the banned legal high Spice was seized at a prison.

The drugs were found at HMP Northumberland during an operation carried out by staff at the prison alongside dog handlers from the National Offender Management Service (NOMS).

A prison officer, who asked to remain anonymous, said: “A specialist dog unit came in on Tuesday, they went through a number of cells and found Spice.

“I was speaking to members of their team and they told me they had recovered enough to fit in two medium sized sports bags, with a street value of nearly £1million.”

The value of the haul has been denied by prison bosses.

The Government’s Psychoactive Substances Act came into force on May 26, making artificial drugs such as Spice illegal.

When asked if the situation had improved at the Acklington jail since the ban was introduced, the officer said: “No not at all, if anything it has got worse.”

Wansbeck MP Ian Lavery said it is “absolutely appalling” that Spice appears to be easier to obtain behind bars than outside of prisons.

He added: “It isn’t just an issue in HMP Northumberland. It is an epidemic consuming the prison system across the UK.

“There seems to be a degree of reluctance to tackle this issue but I want to be absolutely clear that this is an issue that must be tackled without any further delay.

“I visited the prison last month and was able to see the facilities first hand. I’m very grateful to the director Tony Simpson and the staff at HMP Northumberland for being so accommodating.

“Keeping lines of communication open with the staff and management at the prison is absolutely essential and I will continue to work constructively with Mr Simpson.”

Sodexo Justice Service, the firm which runs HMP Northumberland, denied the drugs had a street value of up to £1million.

A HMP Northumberland spokesman said: “Staff recovered a significant amounts of drugs during a pre-planned and pro-active operation at the prison.

“A police investigation is now underway therefore it would be inappropriate to comment further.”

Spice is an odourless, colourless substance – which has a similar effect on the body to cannabis – and is almost impossible to detect.

It works by having a tiny scrap of paper impregnated with the drug which can then be rolled into a cigarette and smoked to achieve a high.

Figures from the prisons and probation ombudsman, Nigel Newcomen, revealed that from August 2013 to January this year, 58 deaths in jails across the country were linked to Spice and other synthetic drugs.

The figure was three times higher than the previous 30-month period.

When the ban on legal highs was introduced, justice secretary Liz Truss said: “These drugs are wreaking havoc in our jails and ruining lives.

“Our decision gives governors and staff more powers to combat this threat and stem the flow of these appalling drugs.”

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NORTHUMBERLAND MP DEMANDS ANSWERS OVER SODEXO RUNNING OF PRISONS

The following article was published by Chronicle Live on 7th October 2016

 
HMP Northumberland

An MP has voiced concerns over ‘staff shortages and increasing violence’ at prisons managed by a private firm.

Wansbeck MP Ian Lavery said he is concerned about the welfare of staff at five jails run by Sodexo Justice Service, including HMP Northumberland.

The Acklington prison has been embroiled in scandal since it was put under the control of the firm in December 2013.

In August, insiders claimed staff had “lost control of the jail” after two officers were attacked, with one suffering a suspected broken jaw and fractured eye socket.

The vicious assaults came just months after an inmate allegedly took one guard hostage and threatened another with a blade.

Whistle-blowers have also made claims about a string of similar incidents at other jails managed by Sodexo.

Now Mr Lavery has called on the firm to “step up” and invest in its facilities or return the prisons to public control.

He said: “There is clearly a pattern of underfunding and understaffing at Sodexo prisons. This is a natural consequence of the Conservative vision for prisons.

“It is a vision of prisons run for private profit instead of serving the public by rehabilitating offenders.

“We need a prison system that supports staff and provides opportunities for rehabilitation, not one that drives up re-offending and leaves staff dangerously isolated.”

In July an insider at HMP Forest Bank in Salford, which is also managed by Sodexo, claimed staff were scared to stand up to inmates due to fear of reprisals.

It came after one warden was beaten by an inmate so severely he was left with two fractured eye sockets and a broken nose.

 
A security fence around HMP Northumberland at Acklington

A spokesman for HMP Forest Bank confirmed an officer was assaulted but insisted the prison was safe and well-run.

The staff member said: “The prisoner had been put into segregation and then just went for him. He punched and head-butted him. He had a broken nose and two fractured eye sockets. It’s awful.

“There are all drugs and mobile phones coming in which is causing so many problems.

“This is adding more to the attacks that are happening in the prison. It’s getting beyond a joke. I have seen staff assaulted in the past and not come back to work.”

In August, a report carried out by the Independent Monitoring Boards found violent attacks at HMP Peterborough had increased over the past year.

It said the rise in incidents at the prison coincided with the increase in the jail’s population.

The report said: “It is noted that the incidence of violence, particularly in the men’s prison, has increased.

“The average number of serious assaults each month was four. The increase coincided with population pressures and the admission of a number of prisoners diverted to HMP Peterborough.”

And in December last year, inspectors raised concerns about levels of staffing and staff deployment at HMP Addiewell in West Lothian, Scotland.

A report by David Strang, HM chief inspector of prisons, said: “There was a constructive approach to the care of all prisoners. Vulnerable prisoners were well looked after.

“However, there were concerns about levels of staffing within the prison and the staff deployment arrangements.”

A Sodexo Justice Service spokesman said: “Staff in all prisons face the challenge of violence. We have a robust approach to monitoring safety and we continually review what we can do to make improvements.

”We have a good record of positive prisoner staff relationships and has recently participated as a pilot prison in the violence reduction initiative led by the National Offender Management Service in the use of body worn video cameras and these are now being rolled out. Safety is always a priority and we have a number of plans in place to address this issue.”

Sodexo also manages HMP Bronzefield in Surrey - the first private finance initiatives (PFI) prison which was built specifically for women.


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HMP NORTHUMBERLAND CALLOUTS PUTTING 'STRAIN' ON NORTH EAST AMBULANCE SERVICES

The following article was published by Chronicle Live on 18th September 2016

HMP Northumberland bosses say they are working with the North East Ambulance Service to keep callouts to a minimum.


HMP Northumberland at Acklington in Northumberland

Emergency callouts to a troubled prison are putting an “unsustainable” strain on an already-stretched ambulance service, it was claimed today.

Campaigners believe paramedics’ time could be better spent after figures revealed they visited the crisis-hit HMP Northumberland 83 times in the first three months of this year.

A freedom of information request sent to the North East Ambulance Service shows that in 2015 and the start of 2016, ambulances were sometimes called out to the Acklington jail several times in one day.

On March 14, crews attended FIVE different emergencies at the prison, which houses up to 1,348 people.

Although some of the callouts recorded were for health issues such as heart problems or strokes, others were for overdoses, assaults and bleeding.

Scott Dickinson, Labour councillor for Druridge Bay, in Northumberland, called for “urgent” action.

He said: “I’m very concerned that additional and unsustainable strain is being placed on Northumberland’s public services by the way this prison is being run.

“In the first three months of this year, ambulances have had to attend the prison over 80 times. This is diverting a vital resource that is already facing Government cuts to a prison that is now being run for private profit.

“This is totally unacceptable. Residents are already referring to the prison as in ‘crisis’ and we need to see action urgently.”



Wansbeck MP Ian Lavery has raised concerns about the state of the troubled prison in the past, meeting with Prisons Minister Andrew Selous in May to discuss constituents’ worries.

He said the number of callouts were further evidence of problems at the institution, which is run by French company Sodexo.

Mr Lavery said: “The North East Ambulance Service is already overstretched and experiencing its own issues without external bodies compounding this.

“There have been well documented problems at HMP Northumberland and some of these are clearly leading to ambulances being taken out of the system.”

And Mr Lavery said the figures showed the organisation of HMP Northumberland affected not just prisoners and staff, but people who rely on public services.

“The issues at the prison are affecting communities across the North East,” he said. “Those in need of ambulances, the elderly and anyone kept waiting when in pain and distress.

“These delays are causing huge concern for the families of patients and for our communities as a whole.

“Something has to be done so that ambulances left idling next to HMP Northumberland can return to serving those in urgent need.”

A member of staff at HMP Northumberland, who asked not to be named, said often ambulances were called out for health issues relating to drug use inside.

He added: “If another consignment of drugs comes out, it can be several times a day.

“It’s stretching the ambulance service to absolute breaking point.”

In an effort to drive down the number of calls to the prison, HMP Northumberland director Tony Simpson met with the North East Ambulance Service earlier this month.

A spokesperson for the prison said: “The prison has a large population with a variety of complex healthcare and addictions-related issues, and we are fully appreciative of the support we receive from North East Ambulance Service.

“We are doing all we can to keep callouts to a minimum. The prison director met North East Ambulance Service representatives and the prison’s primary healthcare providers earlier this month, where a number of joint actions were agreed. These will be closely monitored.”
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TROUBLED PRISON CALLS IN REINFORCEMENTS IN WAKE OF PRISONERS 'RIOT'

The following article was published by Chronicle Live on 14th September 2016


HMP Northumberland at Acklington in Northumberland

Prison staff were forced to call in national reinforcements after what insiders described as a “riot” broke out.

An inmate at the privately-run HMP Northumberland claimed a group of prisoners had threatened guards with makeshift weapons including pool balls in socks, and smashed a pool table.

The man, who said the chaos broke out on Sunday, added: “They haven’t got enough staff here, that’s why the riot kicked off. It’s because they’re getting locked up early, some days they’re locked up all the time.”

Another inmate said the disruption from the incident carried on until the next morning, preventing people in other blocks from attending their usual work assignments.

He also claimed that the trouble may have been caused by bad feeling in the prison as a result of staffing shortages, which he alleged meant that on some days prisoners were not allowed their usual ‘association’ time outside of their cells, in which they can exercise, shower and use the phones.

He said: “Some days we’re banged up all day and only get out for meals.”

A spokesperson for Sodexo, which operates HMP Northumberland, said: “We can confirm there was an incident where two prisoners caused minor damage to property.

“National resources supported our staff in resolving the incident late [Sunday] night.”

This is not the first time that insiders have alleged that HMP Northumberland is short-handed.

After the French company took over running of the prison in 2013, around 200 jobs were cut, leading unions to brand it a “tinderbox jail”.

A report released in June this year by the Independent Monitoring Board raised concerns about the difficulties prison bosses faced in recruiting mental health staff.
And riot officers have been called to the 1,300 capacity prison on at least three occasions in recent years.

Sodexo declined to comment on allegations about staff numbers or how long prisoners had been kept in their cells.
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CRISIS-HIT HMP NORTHUMBERLAND TOPS NORTH EAST DRUGS SMUGGLING TABLE

The following article was published by the Chronicle Live on 3rd July 2016



Freedom of Information request reveals how many visitors were arrested on suspicion of smuggling drugs into our jails.

HMP Northumberland at Acklington in Northumberland
A crisis-hit North East prison tops the table for visitors suspected of smuggling drugs into the region’s jails.

HMP Northumberland, near Acklington, had the highest number of ‘drugs type incidents’ in 2014/15, with eight people arrested.

A Freedom of Information request also revealed six visitors to Durham prison were arrested, with two at high security Frankland and one at Low Newton.

A Prison Service Spokesperson said: “This behaviour is completely unacceptable. We take a zero tolerance approach to contraband in prisons and work closely with both the police and Crown Prosecution Service to prosecute those involved. And where crimes have been committed, we will always push for the toughest possible sentence.

“However we must do more, which is why we are investing £1.3 billion to transform the prison estate, to better support rehabilitation and tackle bullying, violence and drugs.”

The figures suggest visitors apparently trying to take drugs into prison is a serious problem around the country.

The response does not say in what kinds of drug-related activity the visitors were suspected to have been involved.

All in all, police arrested visitors 453 times on suspicion of drug-related incidents in English and Welsh prisons in 2014/15.

This was the highest on record in five years of data going back to 2010/11.

It showed a big 48% rise on the year before in 2013/14.

The Ministry of Justice also said the arrests could have been made on suspicion of carrying drugs paraphernalia to help actually take the drugs such as syringes.

A HMP Northumberland spokesperson said: “Safety and security are our top priority, and our staff work diligently to stop illicit items getting into the prison.

“These figures reflect HMP Northumberland’s profile as the largest prison in the North East, our success in our proactive work challenging members of the public who break the law and our excellent partnership with Northumbria Police.”

HMP Northumberland has been embroiled in scandal since it was put under the control of Sodexo in December 2013.

Earlier this month we reported on a prisoner officer suffering broken ribs after being assaulted by a colleague inside the jail.

Figures from the Ministry of Justice showed assaults on staff at the prison have more than doubled in a year from 15 to 35.

And a report published by the Independent Monitoring Board also raised a series of concerns at the prison.

It found the level of substance misuse at the facility was an area of serious concern to the board.

The report also revealed the number of incidents of self-harm at the prison increased by around 20% on 2014.


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FEARS OVER CRISIS JAIL

The following article was published by ChronicleLive on 1st May 2016

A North East MP will meet the prisons’ minister to raise fears over crisis jail HMP Northumberland.

Wansbeck MP Ian Lavery has voiced concerns about conditions inside the problem prison in the past, and last week a prison officer was attacked by an inmate.  He will meet the prisons’ minister to raise fears over crisis jail HMP Northumberland.  He is due to sit down with Andrew Selous to discuss concerns over conditions at the problem prison in Acklington.


MP Ian Lavery

Last week we reported how a HMP Northumberland prison officer was assaulted by an inmate just one day after a prisoner escaped while on a hospital visit.

The 36-year-old managed to give jail staff the slip before allegedly making his getaway on motorbike.  He was caught and arrested around two hours later in Wallsend.

During his talks with the Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Prisons, Probation, Rehabilitation and Sentencing Mr Lavery will seek assurances about what steps are being taken to solve issues he says are plaguing the prison including violence and a pervasive culture of fear among staff.

The MP will then meet Tony Simpson, director of Acklington, which since 2013 has been managed by the private firm Sodexo, to discuss the on-going situation at the prison.


Tony Simpson the governor of HMP Northumberland

Already in the House of Commons Mr Lavery has told his fellow MPs that drugs and alcohol are being used by Acklington prisoners on a regular basis.

He said: “The situation at the prison has gone beyond serious. On-going violence in our prison system is unacceptable and following recent events has become a grave concern to my constituents and others in the region.

“Public trust in the prison system is of utmost importance and clearly there needs to be action taken due to the alarming nature of incidents that have been raised with me by members of staff, family and the public, some of which have already been reported in the press.

“Staffing shortages and chronic under funding need to be addressed. The safety of staff, prisoners and the general public must be of paramount importance.

“Reports indicate that drug abuse has increased and a culture of violence, intimidation and fear has become the norm at the prison. Staff morale is reputedly at rock bottom due to cuts in staff numbers. It is not acceptable in the 21st Century for our criminal justice system to look like this.”

HMP Northumberland has had a turbulent few years since it was taken over by Sodexo in December 2013.

Around 200 jobs were cut after the take over, leading unions to brand HMP Northumberland a “tinderbox jail”.

Mr Lavery added: “I have the utmost respect for staff in prisons working with limited resources, under funding and under staffing. The work they do is absolutely vital.

“Yet Ministry of Justice figures show a 36% increase in assaults on staff nationally and a 31 per cent rise in serious assaults on prison officers.

“Prison staff are daily going to work in a challenging environment as they perform an important public service. But the Government is letting them down.

“I have no interest in scoring party political points based on this. The current staff shortages and poor staff morale are not acceptable.

“It is part of a national trend and there must be a robust response to this. It is an issue of public and staff safety and should be above political theatre.”

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PRISONERS TAKE GUARD HOSTAGE AFTER LAG'S ESCAPE, WITH INSIDERS BLAMING LACK OF STAFF

The following article was published by ChronicleLive on 25th April 2016


Sources say there has been chaos at HMP Northumberland

Raging prisoners took one guard hostage and threatened another with a blade one day after a fellow con escaped from hospital on a stolen motorbike.

Insiders at the privately run HMP Northumberland claim there has been chaos in recent months due to low staffing levels and poor conditions.

In the latest incident, a warder was allegedly put in a headlock by angry lags and dragged into a cell.

They were said to have swiped his keys and sent other prisoners to pick up a parcel believed to contain drug s that had been thrown over the wall.

Sources claimed officers who ran to help were told to back off by a violent inmate wielding a makeshift knife made from a toothbrush and a razor blade.

Other lags allegedly set light to furniture and smashed up beds and tables during chaotic scenes on wing 7 of the jail in Acklington, Northumberland on Saturday.


Prisoners are said to have set fire to furniture at the jail

The hostage takers were eventually overpowered.

The violence flared one day after a 36-year-old prisoner escaped while receiving treatment at nearby Cramlington Hospital.

He sped off on a stolen motorbike before police found him shortly afterwards at a flat around 27 miles away on Tyneside.

The prison, which holds 1,348 men, was put on lock down as bosses cancelled all visits while an investigation was launched.

A source said: “Trouble had been brewing for a while and it really kicked off this weekend. The cons are fed up at promises being made and not delivered.

“Some should have been moved to Cat Ds weeks ago but it has not happened. Conditions are awful and there is a culture of bullying. It was always going to go off.

“An officer was taken hostage and the wing was smashed up. There will be more of this unless prisoners here get fairer treatment.”


Conditions at the prison are 'awful', says a source

It was claimed an officer was fire hosed by a prisoner last week.

An anonymous post on Facebook described how another a prison officer was also recently threatened with a blade.

The post’s writer added: “Staff are putting their lives in danger every day. Some prisoners just want to get through their sentence high on drugs.

“Staff are constantly late off duty... return this prison to the public sector.”

Labour’s Wansbeck MP Ian Lavery claimed the Cat C jail, managed by Sodexo Justice Service, is awash with le

He added: “People reckon that Spice is rife.  “Alcohol is also said to be a huge problem.  “We have people with mobile phones who could arrange crimes from their cells.


MP Ian Lavery is concerned at reports of drink and drugs at the jail

“That cannot be right, and we must stamp it out.

“We have bullying and intimidation as we have never seen before.”
He warned a lack of proper segregation of vulnerable prisoners had caused ‘absolute mayhem’, with reports of human waste being used to contaminate food.

A spokesman for Sodexo said: “A prison officer was assaulted during an incident at HMP Northumberland; he did not require medical attention.

“A prisoner escaped custody on Friday evening on the way back to prison from hospital.

“The prisoner was apprehended and arrested and is now in police custody.

A full investigation will be carried out into this incident.”
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LEGAL HIGHS CREATING DIFFICULTIES AT TROUBLE HIT PRISON

The following article was published by ChronicleLive on 27th May 2015


Legal highs are contributing to HMP Northumberland assaults and discipline problems, a report reveals.

Prisoners taking legal highs are behind assaults and discipline problems at a troubled jail, a new report has revealed.

A report into HMP Northumberland from the Independent Monitoring Board for the first time officially recognises that there is a problem.

“The Board recognizes the difficulties in checking prisoners for legal highs, and accepts that the availability of Spice and other similar legal highs is one of the factors resulting in indiscipline and assaults on officers and fellow prisoners,” the report said.

In an HMIP report published earlier this year, it was revealed 60 inmates at the prison were assaulted from March to September and of these 14 inmates and two members of staff were left with injuries ranging from broken bones to being knocked unconscious.

But following the introduction of a new ion scanner used on visitors it is now harder to smuggle drugs into the jail.

However, legal highs are much harder to detect and it is understood staff at the jail have previously raised concerns about inmates using the substances.

A spokesperson for Sodexo Justice Services, who run the prison, said: “We welcome the findings of the Independent Monitoring Board report which shows that despite the huge amount of change the prison has undergone in many areas prisoners have continued to receive appropriate care and staff have maintained professional standards.

“The report does highlight some areas for further improvement which we are already addressing.

“As in any prison, stopping illicit items getting into the establishment is a challenge we take very seriously and we continually review our procedures.”

The Tornado national response team, an elite unit called to serious disturbances in jails across the country, were called to HMP Northumberland in March after inmates took over a wing at the jail and again in November when parts of the prison were set alight and inmates refused to return to their cells.

The lack of staffing was also a cause for some concern to inspectors, who said at times staffing was so low there were problems with hospital escorts which need to officers for visits.

One prisoner was unable to attend a family funeral as there were not enough officers on duty to provide an escort.

And the latest report reveals more than 200 staff left the former HMP Acklington and HMP Castington jails betwen February and April last year following Sodexo’s take over of the prisons.

However, despite the staffing shortfalls the IMB team have praised the work of staff amid increased media reporting of incidents at the prison.

The report said: “The Board found that staff continued to behave professionally.”

Prisoners received some praise for their part in finding a member of the IMB inspection team collapsed at the site in October last year and potentially saving his life, with the board praising the “exemplary” actions of inmates and the jail’s healthcare team.

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NATIONAL SECURITY BACK-UP CALLED TO HMP NORTHUMBERLAND NINE TIMES IN TWO YEARS

The following article was published by ChronicleLive on Sunday 10th May 2015

Information released by the Ministry of Justice reveal there were nine calls for help from staff from other jails at HMP Northumberland in two years.

HMP Northumberland at Acklington Northumberland
National security squads were called to a North East prison twice within 12 months.

Information released following a freedom of information request revealed Tornado response teams were called to HMP Northumberland in March and November last year. However, the overall number of times teams from nearby jails had been called was down.

In December 2013 the Acklington prison was taken over by Sodexo and immediately a number of jobs were cut. In the following 17 months a number of high profile incidents have taken place at the prison and an inspection from Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons raised a number of concerns.

From 2013 to the start of 2015 there were nine incidents which resulted in the jail calling for external support from neighbouring prisons. Four took place in 2013, three in 2014 - including two incidents which required a response from a Tornado team - and in January this year there were a further two incidents.

The first call for the Tornado task-force was in March when around 50 inmates took over a wing. In November, six cells were set on fire and inmates then refused to return to their cells, prompting another call.

In January this year a stand off which began as a complaint about the standard of food resulted in staff being dispatched to help prison officers at Northumberland.

Tornado is a national programme of mutual aid between jails in England and Wales to help respond to serious incidents.

A Sodexo Justice Services spokesman said: “Safety and security is our top priority at HMP Northumberland. Prisons are challenging environments to manage, and our staff are trained to resolve the majority of situations locally.

“Like any prison, occasionally the nature of an incident will require assistance from national resources with specialist training.”
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INMATES STAGE FOUR-HOUR PROTEST AT TROUBLED PRISON

The following article was published in the Evening Chronicle on Friday 24th April 2015

Prisoners staged a rooftop protest at HMP Northumberland, resulting in a four-hour stand-off.

Two inmates climbed onto a low roof at the Acklington jail at around 6pm on Thursday, staying there until past 10pm.

Police were made aware of the situation but did not attend.

The incident is the latest in a long line at the troubled prison, which came under fire in a report published by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons in January.

In February, a riot almost broke out over cold food being served to inmates and the national tactical response unit was called in to control the situation.

Thursday’s protest follows a similar one at HMYOI Deerbolt in County Durham earlier this month, where two men - one wielding a hammer - scaled the roof.

A spokesman for Sodexo Justice Services, which controls the privately-run HMP Northumberland, said: “We can confirm there was an incident last night at HMP Northumberland where two prisoners held a protest on a low roof.

“The prisoners surrendered peacefully.”

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PRISON SEARCHED AFTER ANONYMOUS CALL

The following article was published by ChronicleLive on Friday 15th March 2015

HMP Northumberland was searched after reports of an inmate with ammunition for a handgun.

The search followed an anonymous call to Crimestoppers but prison bosses say there was no security risk at the Acklington site.

A full scale search took place after reports of an inmate with live ammunition at HMP Northumberland.

An anonymous source contacted Crimestoppers and reported that an inmate had obtained ammunition and was awaiting delivery of a handgun at the jail.

However, prison staff and specially trained search dogs carried out a search at the jail and no ammunition was discovered.

Prison bosses have said they believe there is not, and was never, a safety risk at the jail.

It is thought that the call was a false alarm.

A Sodexo spokeswoman said: “On receipt of an alert from Crimestoppers we immediately implemented a contingency plan including the use of specialist support.

“Based on this and subsequent information we are satisfied there was no risk to the safety and security of the prison.”

A spokeswoman for Northumbria police said: “Police received a report regarding an allegation of ammunition at HMP Northumberland but following inquiries no ammunition was located and no further action will be taken.”

The search is the latest in a string of incidents at the jail, which was taken over by Sodexo in December 2013.

The prison has had problems with prohibited items being thrown over fences, with drugs and mobile phones reported stuffed inside tennis balls and dead birds.

In April last year Leslie Podd, from Sunderland, packed drugs and booze, into empty bottles before lobbing them over the four-mile long prison fence.

The total haul was worth £40,000 in prison and included 1.5 kilos of cannabis resin, worth up to £22,500 inside, 168 subotex tablets, worth £16,000, 105 diazepam worth up to £1,000, 2.82g of cocaine, 2g of skunk cannabis, 48 temazepam, 55 steroids, seven mobile phones, miniature bottles of vodka and some syringes.

He was jailed for three years for his actions.

A report from Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons outlined the problem of smuggled items making their way into the jail.

And a prison officer, speaking anonymously, previously raised concerns of weapons being smuggled into the jail and said savage staff cuts - which saw numbers at the Acklington site fall from 441 in 2010 to 270 in 2013.


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PRISON SAFETY CONCERNS

The following article was published by the Northumberland Gazette on Friday 6th march 2015

Crunch talks have been arranged to thrash out safety concerns at HMP Northumberland.
 

A one-to-one meeting will take place between the county council’s business chairman Coun Scott Dickinson and Mike Conway, who is director of operations at Sodexo, which runs the Acklington-based prison.

As well as safety concerns at the unit, particularly in relation to staff, the discussions will also focus on the company’s plans for investment at the site.

In December 2013, the Ministry of Justice awarded French firm Sodexo a 15-year contract to operate HMP Northumberland after Acklington and HMP Castington merged.

Since that time, there have been significant staffing cuts at the prison, thought to be in the region of 30 per cent, and an increasing number of assaults and disturbances at the jail fuelled by alcohol and drugs which are reaching prisoners.

A report released in January into HMP Northumberland found safety at the prison had deteriorated in the past two years with a high number of violent incidents.

The prison is located in the Druridge Bay ward of Coun Dickinson.  He said:

“Although an element of violence will always take place in a prison, all indications are that it has escalated since privatisation. The recent inspection report doesn’t offer much comfort either.

“I have been approached by a number of local prison officers about safety concerns and council employees, including library, health and social-care staff regularly visit and work at the prison. I have also met the Police, Probation Service, POA and others who interact with the prison to get a balanced view. Prior to its privatisation, I had no hesitation in visiting the prison and visiting all areas of it.

“As a responsible employer with a statutory duty for public protection, the council needs to ensure that every effort is being taken to ensure the safety of its employees and others who work there. We need to be confident that they are safe and protected in the workplace and that they haven’t been put at any increased risk of violence because of staffing cuts and management decisions.

“I live less than a mile from the site – it’s a small community. We have lived with the prison for years, sometimes forgetting that it’s even there. Recently, this hasn’t been the case and I wanted to ensure that the council is engaging with the company to ensure that the council and locals receive information.

“There have been some recent managerial changes at the prison and I have accepted the invitation to go to the meeting to seek reassurances about the progress and plans that are in place to rectify this situation as quickly as possible.”

HMP Northumberland is a category C prison. It is only the second public-sector prison ever to be transferred to a private sector.

Ministry of Justice data, analysed by the Howard League for Penal Reform Figures and released earlier this week, showed the prison is running at 99 per cent capacity and is now the seventh largest in England and Wales out of 130 prisons, with 1,323 prisoners in January this year. The capacity is 1,341 inmates.

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HMP NORTHUMBERLAND:  INSIDE THE "POWDER KEG" PRISON

The following article by Robert Cooper was published by BBC News online on 27th January 2015


Sodexo Justice Services took over HMP Northumberland in December 2013


A report into HMP Northumberland has found safety at the prison has deteriorated in the past two years. BBC News was allowed to visit the prison, described by some as a "powder keg", to assess how bad things were.

A "very tough three years" was how outgoing director Matt Spencer describes his time at HMP Northumberland.

The category C prison has seen some major changes in his time at the helm and has come in for some serious criticism.

Following privatisation to French firm Sodexo just over a year ago - and losing more than a third of its staff - there have been a series of assaults and disturbances at the jail.

Last month a former officer at the prison told BBC News that, although violence had always gone on at the jail, it had increased since privatisation.

The chief inspector of prisons, Nick Hardwick, has repeatedly linked staff cuts across the system to a rise in violence and suicides.

But Mr Spencer, who has now left the prison, maintained this was not a factor at HMP Northumberland.

"All prisons have incidents, so we did have incidents before Sodexo won the contract," Mr Spencer said, sitting in his office over a cup of coffee with incoming director Tony Simpson.


Until 2011, the site was two separate prisons - a men's prison and a young offender's institution

"I think it's true to say that the number of incidents in almost all prisons up and down the country, public or private, have increased to some extent."

He said "resources" had been a factor in this, but insisted his jail had "appropriate" staffing levels and attributed some of the problems to the circulation of a drug called "spice".

Recently released figures showed discoveries of spice in prisons had spiralled in recent years, with the justice secretary indicating a link to increased violence.

Mr Spencer also argued people were now more aware of incidents that take place at the jail because of increased media scrutiny.

The inspection report released on Tuesday found the prison had a high number of violent incidents and prisoners felt unsafe.

There had been three suicides since the previous inspection in 2012, but inspectors said support for prisoners in crisis was good.

  Spice - what is it?

• Spice refers to a collection of herbs or plant material sprayed with synthetic chemicals to produce a cannabis-like effect when smoked

• It was a legal high sold in headshops until 2009, when it was made a Class B drug like cannabis

• Its intended effects are the same as cannabis, inducing relaxation or even euphoria, but it can cause dizziness, agitation or paranoia

• Evidence suggests the chemicals used in it can be up to 10 times stronger than those found in cannabis

Source: Drugscope
 

Mr Spencer took over England's most northerly jail when it was two separate establishments, a category C men's prison and a young offender's institution.

This is evident from the sheer size of the site - about 4 sq miles (6.4 sq km) by Mr Spencer's reckoning. The old front gate to HMP Acklington, the former adult prison, is still visible in the middle of the grounds.

The one-time RAF airfield sits amid miles of Northumberland countryside, a challenge for visiting families of prisoners, some of whom come from more than 200 miles away.

Last year the Howard League for Penal Reform found officer numbers in public sector prisons had gone down by two fifths since 2010, a period of significant budget cuts to the Ministry of Justice.

Sodexo has had to review its staffing levels at HMP Northumberland and hired 27 new officers after the initial layoffs.


England's most northerly prison is surrounded by countryside

The atmosphere was relaxed in a wing for vulnerable inmates, where prisoners played pool and bantered with an experienced officer.

He said his approach was to establish a relationship with them. Those who passed him in the corridor spoke to him with respect.

However, the officer, who did not give his name, said he did not think the training regime for new staff was as good as that previously provided by the Prison Service.

The cells were reminiscent of university halls, relatively small but comfortable, and decorated with inmates' personal effects.

The guard said these cells, which had en suite bathrooms, were of a better standard than elsewhere on the site.

Another wing had a more classic prison look, with multiple balconies overlooking a central atrium, which had a mesh fixed across it to prevent people jumping.

A couple of new recruits were on duty in this block. One told BBC News it was his first job since leaving school.

Critics have said the new staff are inexperienced compared to those who left.

Mr Spencer said he was pleased with the new officers and that the average level of experience at the jail had only gone down slightly - from 18 years' service to 17.

He also argued improvements had been made. "One of the things that really appealed to the Ministry of Justice about the Sodexo bid for this prison was the working prisons element," he said.


The former RAF airfield covers roughly 4 sq miles (6.4 sq km)

In an old RAF hangar that is now the jail's engineering workshop, Mr Spencer explained how prisoners were making machine parts for Nissan's Sunderland plant - apparently a fruit of Sodexo's contacts in the Chambers of Commerce.

The busy textiles workshop now had twice as many prisoners working in it as a year ago, Mr Spencer said, with inmates across the jail working 40% more hours than before privatisation.

But the latest inspection report has found there is not enough purposeful activity at the jail and not enough activity places, with almost a third of prisoners locked up through the day.

It did, though, find there were "credible plans" to remedy this.

Mr Spencer's successor Mr Simpson has come from a maximum-security Sodexo prison in West Lothian, HMP Addiewell, which was purpose-built as a private prison and has not experienced the transitions HMP Northumberland has.

For him, one of the biggest challenges will be dealing with the scrutiny the prison has come under.

Mr Simpson said: "I totally respect the public's right to have an interest in what happens in prisons. I get that. I'm used to that."

But he described some of the language used as "unhelpful", arguing it affects people's confidence within the jail.

Sodexo said it welcomed the feedback from the report and that it had formed an action plan to address the issues raised.

Mr Simpson's next challenge will be to see through the necessary changes so that the next inspection will be more favourable.



HMP Northumberland is England's most northerly jail

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MP URGES ACTION OVER HMP NORTHUMBERLAND GOVERNOR'S DEPARTURE TO PREVENT "HUGE PROBLEMS"

The following article was published on 9th January 2015 by ChronicleLive

Sodexo has confirmed HMP Northumberland director Matt Spencer will be leave the jail but said the move is unrelated to an upcoming inspection.

  
  
HMP Northumberland at Acklington, Northumberland

The governor of the North East’s only private prison is set to quit - amid warnings of ‘huge problems’ brewing at the jail.

Matt Spencer, director of HMP Northumberland, has confirmed he will leave his post early this year.

A new governor is due to be appointed just weeks before an inspection report on the prison is published.

Mr Spencer joined the jail when it was HMP Acklington oversaw the merger of HMPs Castington and Acklington, to create HMP Northumberland in 2011.

He was at the helm when Sodexo took over the running of the prison in December 2013.

After a turbulent 12 months it was confirmed Mr Spencer, who joined the prison service as an officer, will move to HMP Forest Bank, in Manchester, this year.

Ian Lavery MP for Ashington, where the jail is based, said he hoped Sodexo would take action at the jail to prevent a ‘catastrophe’ after substantial staffing cuts which saw numbers fall from 441 in 2010 to 270 in 2013.

He said: “I’m sure Matt Spencer was dealt a really bad hand as when Sodexo took over the prison they made one third of the staff, mostly officers, redundant.

“His hands have been tied and there have been problems in the prison system.

“Hopefully we will not see what could happen, if things continue, and some sort of huge problem developing at the prison.”

Mr Spencer is due to be replaced by Tony Simpson, a former deputy director at HMP Addiewell, in West Lothian, which opened in 2008, for the past year he has been on secondment at HMP Northumberland.

Tony Leech, managing director of Sodexo Justice Services, said: “Matt Spencer has been an excellent addition to Sodexo since he joined us with HMP Northumberland in December 2013.

“He has overseen a successful transition for the prison from the public sector to Sodexo Justice Services and made great strides towards our goal of turning it into a working prison, providing more meaningful activity for prisoners.

“I’m sure he will bring continued success to HMP Forest Bank, one of the biggest and best-run prisons in the country.

“Tony Simpson was instrumental in mobilising HMP Northumberland as a Sodexo Justice Services prison and brings a huge amount of experience from his time at HMP Addiewell, a maximum security establishment.

“We are entering an exciting and busy period in the history of Sodexo Justice Services.

“These moves will ensure that we have the right people in the right places to meet the emerging challenges and to deliver success.”

A Sodexo spokesman confirmed the inspection report, due to be issued by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons, was expected in ‘coming weeks’ and said the reshuffle was unrelated.

It comes after MPs spoke out in Parliament urging ministers to act over conditions at the jail, in Ashington.

Ian Lavery, Labour MP for Wansbeck, Blyth Valley MP Ronnie Campbell, and North Tyneside MP Mary Glindon said in December they were ‘deeply concerned’ by staffing levels and stress suffered by staff.
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BOSSES AIM TO MAKE HMP NORTHUMBERLAND ONE OF ENGLAND'S "BEST" PRISONS

The following article was written in the Newcastle Evening Chronicle on 30th December 2014

   

HMP Northumberland prison director Matt Spencer has defended his jail after a first year dominated by bad news and heavy criticism

It hasn’t been the easiest of years for HMP Northumberland which is situated near to Acklington Village.

The prison repeatedly featured in our pages, after deaths in custody, drug discoveries and heavy criticism from commentators.

But now, after one year operating as a private prison, bosses say the jail is hitting all its targets - and aims to become one of England’s ‘best’.

On December 1, 2013, the jail was transferred from the National Offender Management Service to Sodexo, a firm with roots in catering and cleaning which already ran four other prisons. Since then, it has been branded a ‘tinder box’ by prison workers unions.

But prison director Matt Spencer hit out at criticism from union NAPO.

He said: “We have had negative publicity but sometimes that’s not to do with the prison, it’s people playing politics, or trying to discredit the privatisation process. Sodexo is a good company for them to have a pop at.

“I can understand concerns about private prisons, but in the public sector there still have been big staffing reductions.

“What we want to do now is bring the prison back up so it’s a big local employer and get the confidence of local people as a safe, secure, decent prison on their doorstep.”

Figures levelled at the prison by its critics include a reduction in staff numbers from 441 in 2010, to 270 in 2013.

But Mr Spencer said the number of staff began to fall when the jail was formed - by the merger of HMP Acklington with HMYOI Castington in 2011 - and redundancies were on the cards whoever won the contract.

He said: “One of the thing always levelled at us is staff reductions in the last three years, brought about by merging two prisons.

“There were two phases of reductions, both voluntary - we have not made anybody compulsorily redundant.”

The Howard League for Penal Reform has also criticised the jail’s record for the number of deaths in custody, with four dying behind bars in 2014 to date.

Mr Spencer said: “The number is the same as last year but you always need to pay constant attention. Any loss of life in a prison or anywhere else is always a tragedy and it has a big effect in terms of staff and prisoners.”

Sodexo has spent £1m on refurbishing cell blocks, and a further £1m on sprucing up the site. Walking around, staff seem respected while the vast site is peaceful, clean and tidy.

Drug dealers, violent attackers and sex offenders are among the inmates - but one prisoner on the sex offenders’ wing was adamant that the jail is better than any hotel he has stayed in.

Mr Spencer added: “It’s been a big challenge over the past 12 months making sure we can deliver everything we need to deliver and want to deliver.

“The values between Sodexo and the private sector are very similar.

“Some people think all we’re going to be interested in is profit and that we’d be quite happy to compromise safety, security and decency but it’s not like that.

“It’s not good business to run an unsafe, ineffective prison - Sodexo would not get any more contracts.

“They run four other prisons, which have been established a lot longer than us, and they are some of the best prisons in the country.

“The aim for Northumberland is we want this to be one of the best prisons in the country.”

The number of incidents at the jail has increased marginally in 2014 from the past year, and Mr Spencer admitted incidents “do happen”.

But improved detection methods have led to significant finds in terms of mobile phones and drugs, he said, and day-to-day incidents are scrutinised by a panel of three Ministry of Justice staff.

“We are meeting all our targets,” he said. “What I don’t want is a situation where staff are afraid when they are coming to work, and I do not get the feeling I get when I talk to staff.

“We have 1,348 inmates when we’re full, and things do happen in prisons, you do find parcels of drugs, you do find mobile phones.

“We have a good partnership with Northumbria Police and it has improved over the past 12 months.”

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