Prison officers' leader claims jail is too cushy

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The Independent Online

British jails are such a cushy number that inmates have turned down easy opportunities to escape and the prisons are so overcrowded, underfunded and awash with drugs that the whole system is "snowballing out of control," a prison officers' leader has claimed.

At one top-security jail, a drug dealer broke in frequently during a six-month period, scaling the walls with a ladder and getting in through a cell window where the bars had been prised away and replaced with a fake grille.

Yet despite having chances to get out as easily as the dealer got in, none of the prisoners made a break, said Glyn Travis, assistant general secretary of the Prison Officers' Association.

"It tells me there's something wrong in society when people are breaking into prison but the prisoners are quite happy to stay inside," he said.

"The prisoners would recognise that if a man can break in so easily and regularly, the opportunity was there to break out. But they did not try. Drugs are coming into prisons at a rate so dramatic that drugs in prisons are actually cheaper than on the outside," he said.

The break-ins were discovered in January at the Category C, HMP Everthorpe, in East Yorkshire, which houses 700 inmates.

A Ministry of Justice spokesman said the governor, Gary Monaghan, had since taken up an office job in IT, and all the prisoners were in their cells when the drug dealer broke in.

Mr Travis said prisoners received wages andcash bonuses for good behaviour and had a television in all cells. Sky television was available in recreational areas and inmates had the use of free telephones.

"And prison staff are forced to deal with them in such a subservient way. It's ridiculous," he added.

A prison service spokesman said that average wages were under £10 a week and in-cell televisions were only given on condition of good behaviour.