Swaleside prison: Sixty inmates take control of wing and light fires

Prisons report described HMP Swaleside as 'dangerous' with 'far too high' levels of violence

Samuel Osborne
Thursday 22 December 2016 19:57
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Dozens of inmates have taken control of a wing at HMP Swaleside.

Prisoners have taken control of a landing on a wing at the Category B prison on the Isle of Sheppey in Kent.

"We are not sure how bad it is yet but we understand 60 prisoners have taken control of 'A' wing there," the Prison Officers Association (POA) chairman Mike Rolfe said.

He added that "some fires have been lit".

Specially trained guards known as "Tornado" squads have been deployed to Swaleside, the Prison Service said.

It said the incident has been contained to a landing on a single wing and the rest of the prison is secure.

Alex Cavendish, a former prisoner and prison affairs academic, tweeted to say at least nine prisoners from HMP Birmingham, where hundreds of prisoners rioted last week, were transferred to Swaleside over the last few days.

Kent Fire and Rescue Service at HMP Swaleside

It comes after up to six hundred prisoners took over four wings of Birmingham prison last week. Experts described the takeover as the worst disorder of its kind since the 1990 Strangeways riot in Manchester.

As trouble hit the prison, Liberal Democrat Leader Tim Farron said Secretary of State for Justice "must get the situation in our prisons under control immediately. Her failure to do so up to this point is disastrous."

He added: "The Government's policy is not working. We must reduce the number of people we are sending to prison if we are to have any hope of stemming the violence and actually working to rehabilitate prisoners.

"If the Government refuses to act then it is culpable for the violence that is likely to follow."

HMP Swaleside has a capacity of around 1,100 inmates serving prison terms of more than four years. It has eight wings comprised of single cells.

An HM Inspectorate of Prisons report in July described the prison as "dangerous" and found levels of violence were "far too high", with many of the incidents serious.

A survey found 69 per cent of inmates had felt unsafe at some point - a result which was significantly higher than at similar facilities.

More than half (52 per cent) of prisoners polled said it was easy or very easy to get drugs at the prison, while 45 per cent said the same about alcohol.

HM Inspectorate of Prisons also said the use of force was high, while the segregation unit was described as "filthy".

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