Swaleside Prison: Levels of violence 'too high'

Swaleside Prison
Image caption Swaleside Prison, on the Isle of Sheppey, holds more than 1,100 men

A jail where a prison officer was attacked two years ago is still "not safe" with "far too high" levels of violence, an inspection has found.

Chief Inspector of Prisons Peter Clarke described Swaleside Prison, on the Isle of Sheppey, Kent as "dangerous" and its segregation unit as "filthy".

He said: "On the basis of the very clear evidence before us... Swaleside was not a safe prison."

However, he added there were signs "it had started to stabilise".

Two years ago, an unannounced inspection of the jail found some prisoners were too scared to leave their cells for fear they would be assaulted, and that staff shortages were "affecting every area of the prison".

In October 2014, a prison officer was attacked with a blade during a disturbance and was taken to hospital with an injury to his scalp.

In the latest inspection of the category B training prison, which holds more than 1,100 men, a survey found 69% of inmates had felt unsafe at some point.

More than 52% of prisoners polled said it was easy or very easy to get drugs at the prison, while 45% said the same about alcohol.

Last week, a man was jailed for using a drone to send the psychoactive drug known as Spice and tobacco into the jail.

Image caption A man was jailed for using a drone to send a psychoactive drug and tobacco into the jail

Mr Clarke said: "In many respects, outcomes at this inspection have further deteriorated in all four of our healthy prison tests, with safety in particular being of concern.

"To put it bluntly, the only sensible conclusion we could reach, on the basis of the very clear evidence before us, was that at the time of the inspection Swaleside was not a safe prison."

But he added: "Despite the fact that by any standards this is a poor report about a dangerous prison, we left Swaleside with some optimism that the prison had started to stabilise.

He said the new governor "appeared to have a very clear understanding of the challenges he and his team faced".

"The very early signs, at the time of the inspection, were that his determination to grip difficult issues had been welcomed by many prisoners and staff alike, who told us they wanted to see the prison improve."

Frances Crook of the Howard League for Penal Reform, said: "This is yet another dreadful report into a failing prison and one which reiterates the systemic problems faced in prisons across the country.

"When we send people to dangerous prisons with such high levels of violence and nothing productive to do, it should be no surprise that they are swept into ever deeper currents of crime," she added.

Inspectors visited Swaleside from 29 March to 8 April 2016.

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