HMP Northumberland report contained 'few surprises' say MP and Prison Officers Association

MP Ian Lavery will write to the secretary of state for prisons following the release of a critical HMP report on Northumberland prison

 

HMP Northumberland at Acklington Northumberland.

(HMP Northumberland at Acklington Northumberland)

An MP has renewed calls to review the running of HMP Northumberland, following the publication of a damning report.

Earlier this month Ian Lavery, MP for Wansbeck, called for Sodexo’s contract to run the jail to be reviewed after a catalogue of concerns were raised by prison staff.

On Tuesday Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons published a report into the prison and said ‘few improvements’ have been made since its last inspection in 2012.

Following the report’s publication, Mr Lavery said staff fears had been ‘vindicated’, and called for action to address concerns.

He said: “I am going to write to the secretary of state to ask for a full investigation into the goings on.

“I don’t need the report to get this information - I am getting told by the people who work there and prisoners.

“The prisoners are frightened and the officers are concerned about safety - what more can happen?

“If there is not some sort of immediate action there will be a tragedy.”

Almost a third of inmates said illegal drugs were either easy, or very easy, to get hold of and that illegal alcohol was being brewed in the jail.

The Prison Officers’ Association, the trade union for prison staff, said members working at the jail felt disappointed at the findings but were unsurprised.

 

HMP Northumberland at Acklington in Northumberland
(HMP Northumberland at Acklington in Northumberland)

 Read more: HMP Northumberland slammed as 'failing miserably' by prison reformers

Sodexo has said they welcome the report and new director Tony Simpson, who took up the post last week, is believed to see the recommendations as a checklist to ensure the prison is on the road to improvement.

His predecessor Matt Spencer previously said he hoped to make the jail one of the best in the country and Sodexo said an ‘action plan’ is in place to tackle concerns.

Terry Fullerton, national executive committee member for the Prison Officers Association in the North East, said: “The report is a disappointment but it is not surprising.

“Right at the very beginning of the takeover process there were huge cuts in staff and we said it would have an impact on the stability at Northumberland.

“Unfortunately this seems to be a risk Sodexo has been prepared to take.

“In the face of staff cuts one of the positives in the report is the respect felt by prisoners from prison officers.

“I hope Sodexo listen to the concerns raised by POA branch officials about the safety aspect of this report.

“I spoke to our branch and they were disappointed but they said it wasn’t unexpected.”

Mr Fullerton echoed Mr Lavery’s concerns and said POA members believed the contract, which is set to run for 15 years, should be reviewed.

He added: “We’ve always said the prison service should be run by the public sector.”

A statement issued by Sodexo said the firm welcomed the report and would work to address the issues raised.