Inspectors see riot danger signs at jail

MANY shortcomings similar to those that led to a series of riots at a prison last year resulting in pounds 20m of damage have been discovered by inspectors at another jail, leading to demands for urgent changes to prevent another outbreak.

A surprise investigation by the prisons' inspectorate into conditions at Verne, a jail for category C inmates on Portland Bill, Dorset, focused on several key issues thought to have contributed to seven significant confrontations with staff recently.

Staff at the jail, which holds 500 prisoners, are severely hampered by its structure and the number of inmates, with the result that they can do little to prevent bullying, racketeering and the misuse of drugs, as at Wymott prison, near Leyland, Lancashire, which erupted in violence last September.

But in a report published today on the inspection - the first since a full assessment in 1990 - Judge Stephen Tumim, the Chief Inspector of Prisons, highlights a number of other 'disturbing' similarities.

Danger points included a large influx of of new inmates before the inspection, which stretched the jail's ability to absorb them, and difficulties in transferring unsuitable prisoners to other establishments.

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