Tyne & Wear

Safety and overcrowding concerns at HMP Durham

HMP Durham Image copyright Google
Image caption HMP Durham is a Category B men's prison located in the city centre

Safety, overcrowding and drugs remain a concern at Durham Prison, the jails watchdog has found.

HM Inspectorate of Prisons said it was "unacceptable" inmates had to eat meals in cells, next to an unscreened toilet.

Cells designed for one at the Victorian jail were occupied by two; some were dirty, and graffiti was widespread.

A spokesman for the National Offender Management Service said additional staff were being recruited to improve prisoner supervision and support.

Since the prison was previously inspected in December 2013, four prisoners had taken their own lives, and there was a further death a week after the October 2016 visit.

'Drugs readily available'

Although levels of violence remained broadly unchanged and most incidents were low level, more prisoners said they felt unsafe than during previous inspections.

Just under half those surveyed said that illicit drugs were readily available.

Chief Inspector of Prisons, Peter Clarke, described the report as "disappointing".

The "strong local identity and generally friendly staff" was highlighted, but the culture "was not as constructive or purposeful as it should have been", he said.

He added: "It was striking how little had changed since our last inspection, with a passivity, even complacency, about what was needed to take the prison forward."

Michael Spurr, chief executive of the National Offender Management Service, said: "The illicit supply of psychoactive drugs has undermined safety in Durham and tackling this, with the support of the police, is a priority for the governor.

"Additional staff are also being recruited... and I'm confident that with these resources in place the governor will be able to significantly improve the performance of the prison."

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