The government was warned of the potential for disorder months before Britain’s biggest prison riot in decades but failed to act, and now the violence is threatening to spread to other vulnerable jails.
A surge in violence by inmates against prison staff and the proliferation of psychoactive drugs were among the warnings the government received two months ago about the troubled, privately managed HMP Birmingham. The Guardian reports staff “feared for their personal safety” and were concerned about attacks by prisoners high on drugs.
As Breitbart London reported at the time of the disturbance on Friday, 30 staff had resigned from HMP Birmingham in the weeks running up to the riots on Friday, which saw hundreds of prisoners take over wings of the prison and loot equipment including riot gear from guard rooms. Following the fears over drug attacks in the government report, at least one member of staff was reported to have been threatened with a used syringe as inmates took his keys.
Mike Rolfe, chairman of the Prison Officers’ Association, said at the time, “We’ve been warning for a long time about the crisis in prisons”, and has since remarked of the warnings given: “We’re seriously concerned about the state of prisons, not just with the high levels of violence, but the now regular theme of rioting which is spreading.
“We’ve got serious concerns that there’s potential that this will spread and continue to happen over the next few months until the MoJ [Ministry of Justice] start listening to us properly.”
Following the unrest in Birmingham last week, hundreds of prisoners were transferred to other prisons across the country while the facility undergoes inspection and repair, yet this action may have inadvertently helped spread the violence. Prison Officers’ Association colleague and Hull branch chairman Rob Nicholson has warned in comments reported by the Hull Daily Mail that the arrival of violent prisoners from Birmingham in his facility is causing trouble.
HMP Hull received 15 prisoners from Birmingham over the weekend including suspected ringleaders and according to the report prison staff have already been assaulted, CCTV cameras have been vandalised, and inmates have refused to return to their cells. Prison Officer Nicholson said: “It is a powder keg and it’s waiting to go off. They are trying to incite riots here and we’ve had a really bad couple of days here.
“I’ve spoken to very experienced prison officers this morning and they tell me they fear for their safety.”
Backing up his concerns, local Member of Parliament Karl Turner criticised the government for the unrest, remarking: “I have it on good authority that Hull Prison is on the brink of a riot. And clearly, this chaos has been caused by the Government, no-one else.”