Swaleside Prison: Wing reclaimed after inmates take control

Image from inside Swaleside prisonImage copyright

Image caption

Inmates took over part of a wing, from where this picture is believed to have been sent

Part of a prison wing that was taken over by about 60 inmates has been reclaimed, the Prison Service has said.

Specialist “Tornado” teams were sent into HMP Swaleside, on the Isle of Sheppey, Kent, after a disturbance at about 19:00 GMT on Thursday.

A Prison Service spokeswoman said all those involved at the category B jail had “surrendered and were back in cells by 1am”.

No prisoners or staff were injured, she added. A police inquiry is under way.

The disturbance happened less than a week after inmates at HMP Birmingham rioted for 12 hours.

The Prison Service said the Swaleside incident had broken out on a landing of the jail’s A wing.

It is understood the rest of the jail, which houses 1,100 male prisoners, was put on “lockdown” while the prison was brought back under control.

‘Fires lit’

Earlier, Prison Officers Association (POA) chairman Mike Rolfe said fires had been lit.

Mr Rolfe described Swaleside as “a particularly difficult place to work” because of an “acute staff shortfall” and high levels of violence.

A man claiming to be an inmate at the jail contacted the BBC and said the unrest had been sparked when officers raided cells.

He made further claims, which have not been verified, that the use of inexperienced staff and a reduction in certain privileges had caused “tension” between prison officers and inmates.

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Call to halve prisoner numbers to 45,000

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Swaleside Prison holds 1,100 male prisoners

During the disturbance, the Prison Service said the incident had been “contained to one landing on A Wing”.

The A wing of the prison houses the Open Academy, a study centre with a computer suite.

An HM Inspectorate of Prisons report in July said the centre was used by 50 of the 126 prisoners on the wing, who were enrolled on open and distance learning courses.

The report described the prison as “dangerous” and found levels of violence at the jail were “far too high”, with many incidents classed as serious.

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Vans were seen arriving at Swaleside at the height of the disturbance

Up to 240 prisoners had been moved to other jails after last week’s Birmingham riot was quelled, but the Ministry of Justice did not say whether any had been sent to Swaleside.

The Prison Service said “challenges in our prisons are longstanding and won’t be solved overnight”.

But, it added, that Justice Secretary Liz Truss was “committed to making sure our prisons are stable while we deliver wholescale reforms to the prison estate to help offenders turn their lives around and reduce reoffending”.

On Thursday, former deputy prime minister Nick Clegg and former home secretaries Ken Clark and Jacqui Smith said the unrest at Birmingham was a “wake-up call”.

In a letter to the Times, they said jails had become unacceptably dangerous and called for inmate populations to be reduced by about half from their present levels to 45,000.

Latest unrest in England’s prisons

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A riot at Birmingham Prison lasted more than 12 hours

  • HMP Birmingham – 16 December – Specialist riot squads were deployed after a riot broke out involving hundreds of inmates and lasted more than 12 hours.
  • HMP Bedford – 6 November – A riot saw up to 200 inmates go on the rampage, flooding the jail’s gangways.
  • HMP Lewes – 29 October – A national response unit had to be brought in to control the prisoners at the East Sussex jail during a disturbance which lasted for six hours.

Swaleside Prison: Wing reclaimed after inmates take control

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