Swaleside Prison inmates 'too scared' to leave cells

Some prisoners in Kent are too scared to leave their cells for fear they will be assaulted, a report has said.

An unannounced inspection of HMP Swaleside found staff shortages were "affecting every area of the prison".

The report said meeting the needs of some groups, such as holding Muslim Friday prayers, restricted the regime for others and created tensions.

It added that "good relations" between staff and inmates "mitigated some of the worst effects".

'Urgent improvement'

Nick Hardwick, chief inspector of prisons, said: "Frightened prisoners need to be identified and supported and the violence reduction policy rigorously implemented.

"Management of the use of force also requires urgent improvement."

HMP Swaleside is a category B prison and holds about 1,100 inmates.

Michael Spurr, chief executive officer of the National Offender Management Service, said: "We are actively recruiting permanent staff in prisons across the South East and Swaleside will continue to receive support until permanent staff are in place.

"Safety is a priority for the governor - and action will be taken to address the recommendations made in this report."

'Prisons crisis'

The Howard League for Penal Reform said budget cuts meant bringing in officers from other facilities was like "rearranging the deckchairs on a sinking ship".

"This is the latest in a long line of damning inspection reports showing prisons stretched beyond their limits," said Andrew Neilson, director of campaigns.

"Ministers deny there is a crisis, but the evidence is plain to see.

"Staff cuts have made Swaleside a dangerous prison. It is dangerous for prisoners and for staff, and that means it is dangerous for the public too, as men spill out back into communities more likely to cause mayhem and harm.

"Budget cuts are being felt in every prison in the land, and the solution is to send fewer people to prison in the first place."

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