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21 Nov 2017

Howard League responds to Northumberland prison inspection

The Howard League for Penal Reform has responded to Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons’ report on Northumberland prison, published today (Tuesday 21 November).

Inspectors visited the private prison, which is run by Sodexo, in July and August this year. They found that six men had died by suicide and violence had more than doubled since the last inspection, which was conducted in 2014.

About three in five prisoners said that it was easy or very easy to obtain illicit drugs inside the jail, and one in five revealed that they had acquired a drug habit since entering the prison.

Frances Crook, Chief Executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform, said: “After a year of riots, drug scandals and prisoners dying by suicide in private prisons, today’s report on Northumberland proves beyond doubt that privatisation has been an abject failure for the public.

“Violence has more than doubled. Hundreds of men have acquired drug habits. These are serious problems that will spill out into communities, making everyone less safe.

“Seven years ago, Northumberland had 441 frontline staff. The number was cut to 270 in preparation for privatisation. Today, it is down to 192 staff, trying to run a prison that is holding more than 1,300 men. This was a disaster waiting to happen.”

The inspection findings come only a week after the Howard League published research that suggests morale is low among staff in private prisons.

The role of the prison officer, a report published jointly with the justice sector trade union, Community, revealed that dangerously low staffing levels, a poorly-defined job description, insufficient training and a perceived lack of decision-making power had left officers feeling ignored, ineffective and unable to achieve their aims.

Notes to editors

  1. The Howard League for Penal Reform is the oldest penal reform charity in the world. It is a national charity working for less crime, safer communities and fewer people in prison.
  1. A copy of the Northumberland prison inspection report will be available from Tuesday 21 November on the HM Inspectorate of Prisons website.
  1. The role of the prison officer, a report published jointly by the Howard League and Community, can be found on the Howard League website.


Rob Preece
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