Responding to today’s (8 October) HM Inspectorate of Prisons’ report on G4S-managed Oakwood prison, Frances Crook, Chief Executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform, said:

It is well-known in prison circles that this institution is referred to as ‘Jokewood’ by prisoners and staff across the system, but this isn’t a joke – it is deeply serious.

This private prison has been open for a year and a half and it is getting worse, not better. On a Payment by Results model it would be closed because G4S are being paid for it and it is not delivering results.

Oakwood is unsafe. Nothing works. Hundreds of inmates are becoming addicted to drugs. Prisoners are harming themselves and attacking each other. This is a dangerous environment that will only create more crime and create more victims.

The head of the prison service may be right to say that opening a jail represents a challenge but it has come to a pretty pass when success behind bars is simply measured by whether there has been a riot or not.

This is the jail that the Justice Secretary held up as the model for the whole prison system to follow. Today’s report shows that he is completely out of touch with reality and is putting the public in danger. It also casts yet more doubt on the government’s plans to hand over probation to G4S and other private providers.

The time for excuses has passed. Oakwood should close, the contract for running it should be withdrawn, and G4S must never be allowed to take control of a prison again.”

Prison Bars by Andrew bardwell via Wikimedia Commons

Prison Bars by Andrew bardwell via Wikimedia Commons

What inspectors found:

• “On more than one occasion we were told by prisoners that ‘you can get drugs here but not soap’.” (p. 31)

• “…(O)ne in seven prisoners said that they had developed a drug problem while at the prison.” (p. 12)

• “Some prisoners we spoke to said that threatening self-harm was sometimes the only way to get help with fairly basic requests or get protection from victimisation.” (p. 23)

• “Many staff were passive and compliant, almost to the point of collusion, in an attempt to avoid confrontation, and there was clear evidence of staff failing to tackle delinquency or abusive behaviour.” (p. 7)

• “We met one man who had had a severe stroke before coming into custody. He was in a wheelchair and wore a splint to ease his ‘foot drop’; however, the splint was broken… (S)ince transferring to Oakwood he had not received any physiotherapy and had not been seen by nursing staff, other than to receive his medication.” (p. 39)

• “One prisoner had been noted in his secondary screening on arrival as having ‘no disabilities’. In reality, he was unable to walk without a Zimmer frame and was partially sighted and deaf.” (p. 35)

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