Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Private Firm's Prisons under Attack from MP

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Private Firm's Prisons under Attack from MP

Article excerpt

Byline: Michael Muncaster Reporter

AN MP has voiced concerns over "staff shortages and increasing violence" at prisons managed by a private firm.

Wansbeck MP Ian Lavery said he is concerned about the welfare of staff at five jails run by Sodexo Justice Service, including HMP Northumberland.

The Acklington prison has been embroiled in claims of scandal since it was put under the control of the firm in December 2013.

In August, insiders claimed staff had "lost control of the jail" after two officers were attacked, with one suffering a suspected broken jaw and fractured eye socket.

The vicious assaults came just months after an inmate allegedly took one guard hostage and threatened another with a blade.

Whistle-blowers have also made claims about a string of similar incidents at other jails managed by Sodexo.

Now Mr Lavery has called on the firm to "step up" and invest in its facilities or return the prisons to public control.

He said: "There is clearly a pattern of underfunding and understaffing at Sodexo prisons. This is a natural consequence of the Conservative vision for prisons.

"It is a vision of prisons run for private profit instead of serving the public by rehabilitating offenders.

"We need a prison system that supports staff and provides opportunities for rehabilitation, not one that drives up reoffending and leaves staff dangerously isolated."

In July, an insider at HMP Forest Bank in Salford, which is also managed by Sodexo, claimed staff were scared to stand up to inmates due to fear of reprisals.

It came after one warden was beaten by an inmate so severely he was left with two fractured eye sockets and a broken nose.

A spokesman for HMP Forest Bank confirmed an officer was assaulted but insisted the prison was safe and wellrun.

The insider said: "The prisoner had been put into segregation and then just went for him. He punched and headbutted him. …

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