Duncan Lewis

Private prison has not improved in tackling drug abuse and idleness says a report by prison chief

Date: (22 August 2012)    |    

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The chief inspector of prisons has criticised the high levels of illegal drug use and significant inmate idleness at the private HMP Wolds which is being run by the security firm G4s.

The contract for running the prison is being put out to competitive bidding. And G4s was also taking part to renew its contract it emerged.

The spot inspections done by the inspector had found that up to 30% of prisoners at the Wolds category-C training prison in east Yorkshire, were on the wings doing nothing during the working day and that few of the education, training and workplaces that did exist, were not of sufficient quality to engage and develop skills of inmates.
HMP Wolds became the first privately managed prison in Europe when it opened in April 1992. The current 10-year contract to run the prison was expiring and it is one of nine put out to tender for bids from private security firms and the prison service.
Ken Clarke, justice secretary, said he wanted this round of prison privatisations to produce not only savings but also to focus on developing his "working prisons" concept and drug treatment regimes.
A report by Nick Hardwick the chief inspector of prisons said that though there had been some improvements at the G4s run prison since the last inspection in 2010 there were serious concerns remained about drugs, lack of staff confidence in tackling poor behaviour, and limited work and training provisions.
The inspector said the prison amenities were also tampered, with a third of the single cells at the prison, which holds 356 prisoners, had been "doubled up" to hold two prisoners, and were too cramped, lacked sufficient furniture and had poorly screened toilets.
The strongest criticism was for the lack of purposeful employment opportunities which they described as one of the basic tenet of a training prison. This part of it was neglected with no changes in or improvements in training and learning which was kept under a low profile with frequent interruptions and inactivity.
The inspectors, however, said they were impressed by some of the work that was done at the Wolds, including that of a group of 25 inmates who carried out detailed marketing-related research for high-profile companies using closely monitored internet and telephone access.
They also praised an expanding business set up by the education department, which had trained eight prisoners to create computer-based products such as websites, animated programmes and video productions for business customers.
Michael Spurr, chief executive of the National Offender Management Service, said in response to the report that the competition process that the Wolds was undergoing could create uncertainty but the director and her staff will continue to work to address the issues highlighted in the report to move the prison forward.