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27 Jan 2015

Northumberland prison: A ‘national resource’ that is failing miserably

The Howard League for Penal Reform has responded to Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons’ report on Northumberland prison, published today (Tuesday 27 January).

The prison is run by Sodexo. Inspectors found that three prisoners had died by suicide since the prison’s previous inspection in 2012.

Frances Crook, Chief Executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform, said: “Northumberland prison is supposed to be a ‘national resource’ to help turn around the lives of indeterminate-sentenced prisoners and those serving time for sex offences. But this report shows it is failing miserably. This is a prison where prisoners get drugs and alcohol easily but find support and preparation for release harder to come by. The number of assaults is high and rising, and inspectors found some prisoners had sought sanctuary in the segregation unit because they felt unsafe.

“We have become used to reading critical reports on overcrowded public-sector prisons which have seen deep cuts to staff and resources. Northumberland is neither publicly run nor overcrowded. What is Sodexo’s excuse? It is extremely worrying that Sodexo runs the prison with so many problems and has also been handed the contract to run community sentences from next month. This is another example of the shambles created by the privatisation of prisons.”

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.
  2. A copy of the Northumberland inspection report can be found on the HM Inspectorate of Prisons website from 27 January 2015.
  3. Research published by the Howard League last year showed that the number of frontline officers at Northumberland prison was cut from 441 to 270 in three years.


Rob Preece
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