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CALL FOR the high-security jail HMP Woodhill to be put into emergency measures amid attacks on officers and “chronic” staff shortages.
Inspectors have called for the high-security jail HMP Woodhill to be put into emergency measures amid attacks on officers and “chronic” staff shortages.
The prison, in Milton Keynes, was deemed to be “fundamentally unsafe” following an inspection in August.
Charlie Taylor, the chief inspector of prisons, has contacted Justice Secretary Alex Chalk to issue an urgent notification for improvement.
The Ministry of Justice has been contacted for comment.
The prison holds about 500 male Category A offenders, including Charles Bronson, and was said to have the “highest rate of serious assaults in England and Wales” on staff, with “bullying and intimidation by prisoners to be commonplace”.
Low morale meant many staff had “voted with their feet”, with more officers leaving than joining, and with “no indication that the situation would improve”, the watchdog said. ‘Urgent support needed’
In August, the BBC reported the jail was on a recruitment drive for new officers, with previous inspections also highlighting a lack of staff at the site.
Chelsea Lee, deputy head of residence, said it took “a certain kind of person” to be a prison officer.
“Sometimes we have bad days. There can be high frustrations working in this kind of custodial environment,” she said.
“There could be multiple incidents throughout the day and it’s quite high stress levels for the officers.” Mr Taylor expressed concern that a “complex, high-risk” prison like Woodhill could not “operate effectively with such chronic staff shortages”.
“Urgent support is needed from HMPPS (His Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service) to help Woodhill and other establishments to develop credible, long-term plans that improve staff recruitment, and, crucially, staff retention,” he said. The inspectors’ report also found high levels of violence and drug use at the jail, with the rate of self-harm among inmates the highest in the country for men’s prisons.
Twenty-six offenders were found to be “self isolating” in cells in fear of their own safety, while staff shortages meant education classes and work had been cancelled for inmates, leaving them “frustrated”.
The watchdog said without significantly improving staffing levels, “it was not clear how the jail will improve”. Pia Sinha, chief executive of the Prison Reform Trust, branded the report “shocking”, adding: “After repeated warnings, it is extremely disappointing that the prison now finds itself in this position.
“Ministers urgently need to get a grip on what has gone wrong.” BBC