Judge describes Wymott as a jail close to anarchy

STEPHEN TUMIM yesterday painted a picture of Wymott as a jail out of control, where drug gangs dominated, inmates patrolled their own wings, officers were regarded as 'intruders' and where bullying and violent assault were commonplace, writes Heather Mills.

Although prison officers, police and fire services were praised by the Chief Inspector of Prisons for bringing the prison back under control with no escapes and no serious injuries, the jail was a 'disturbance waiting to happen'.

There were so many 'horror stories' from staff and inmates of prisoners fabricating spearlike weapons out of fluorescent lighting strips, of gangs waylaying prisoners on their way back from visits and forcibly stripping them in order to steal their possessions; of drug deals being arranged in front of staff; and of inmates tying others to chairs and hosing them.

'If only a proportion of them are true . . . then Wymott was a prison very close to anarchy,' he said in his report yesterday.

The most worrying factor was that the problems were well known and well documented, but little seemed to have been done to avoid the disturbances. In March 1992, Judge Tumim had warned of the dangers of an influx of 'more volatile and confrontational' prisoners. He condemned the prevalence of bullying and drug abuse and alerted the Home Office to the potential hazards of the jail's low-key internal security.

When the jail erupted into violence last September, it was for the third time in seven years. In April 1986, 58 prisoners were injured and the prison itself damaged by fire, vandalism and flooding. Six months later violence flared again, this time leaving several officers injured.

Reports at the time said the jail's open design was unsuited to the number of young, volatile violent prisoners it was housing. By the time of this year's riots, there were even more such inmates.

'Many of these came from areas dominated by drug gangs and had not known employment in the accepted sense. Alienated from many of society's conventional standards, they were difficult for staff to understand and deal with.'

Judge Tumim found that assaults escalated - 87 prisoners taken to hospital in the year leading up to the disturbances - large numbers of prisoners and staff were reporting sick, and inmates had suffered drug overdoses.

The weekend before the riots, violence broke out, apparently over the non-delivery of a large quantity of heroin.

One prisoner told the inspectors: ' I have never experienced a more frightening or barbaric place. The whole prison was a battleground. Everyone knew about the drug problems. But no one, staff, probation officers and the inmates themselves, seemed to care about what was going on.'

Judge Tumim concluded that to give Wymott a settled future, the existing buildings needed replacing or strengthening, with inmates locked in their cells each night, instead of holding their own keys.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Office / Sales Manager

£22000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Established and expanding South...

Recruitment Genius: Administrative Assistant / Order Fulfilment

£14000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity to join a thrivi...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped OTE: SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consulta...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped OTE: SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consulta...

Day In a Page

Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones