Dorset

Guys Marsh prison report reveals violence and gang culture

Guys Marsh Image copyright Google
Image caption The unannounced inspection, carried out last November, found "very high" levels of violence at Guys Marsh

Control of a Dorset jail was "all but lost", with gangs operating openly, the prison watchdog has found.

A HM Inspectorate of Prisons (HMIP) report at HMP Guys Marsh near Shaftesbury recorded high levels of violence and a drugs and gang culture.

The Howard League for Penal Reform described the findings as "deeply concerning".

The National Offender Management Service insisted Guys Marsh is now "stable".

'Prison in crisis'

The unannounced inspection in November indicated prisoners deliberately caused disruption so they could be placed in segregation where they would be safer.

"We found a prison that was in crisis, where managers and staff had all but lost control," the report said.

"Drugs availability, particularly new psychoactive substances, was high and fuelled debt and associated violence.

"Some of this was related to gangs and organised crime activity outside the prison."

Guys Marsh is a training prison but inspectors discovered only 16% of prisoners were in education.

Nick Hardwick, chief inspector of prisons said the findings "posed unacceptable risks to the public, staff and prisoners and this cannot be allowed to continue."

'Decent regime'

Michael Spurr, Chief Executive Officer of the National Offender Management Service, insisted the prison was "not out of control" but accepted "the situation wasn't acceptable".

"It is now stable, operating safely, and providing a consistent and decent regime for prisoners," he said.

Andrew Neilson, of the Howard League for Penal Reform, said the government was taking "a huge gamble with public safety" by cutting prison budgets.

"When prisoners are spending most of their days locked up in overcrowded cells with nothing to do, while violence and drug abuse are commonplace, we should not be surprised if they do not turn out to be safer citizens when they are released," he added.

Prison Officers' Association chairman Peter McParlin said: "They've had a policy where they've decided to close prisons, where they've reduced staff greatly.

"If you just take 30 out of a prison staffing population of Guys Marsh of 130, that's bound to have significant effects."

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