Tyne & Wear

HMP Northumberland 'a tinderbox' after staff cuts

HMP Northumberland Image copyright other
Image caption The prison is run by the company Sodexo which signed a 15-year deal with the government last year

A prison has been left "like a tinderbox" after cuts left staff worried about tackling violence, probation officers' union Napo said.

The claim about HMP Northumberland follows an attack by an inmate that left an officer in hospital this month.

But Sodexo, which has run the prison since 2013, said it had seen no rise in the number of violent incidents.

However, it confirmed about 200 of the 588 staff at the jail took voluntary redundancy before it took over.

A prison officer needed hospital treatment after attack by an inmate on 9 August, while in March convicts took over a whole wing of the category C prison.

Mike Quinn, from the Northumbria branch of Napo, said: "Members report to me that the atmosphere within the prison is tense, concerned that if an incident were to take place that there would simply not be the staff to deal with it.

'More efficient'

"Let's not forget that last time there was a large scale disturbance at the prison, our members predicted the events, describing the prison as "like a tinderbox".

"Probation staff have visited HMP Northumberland for many years now. These concerns have only arisen since the privatisation of the prison."

A spokesman for Sodexo Justice Services said: "We monitor incidents in the prison very closely, and there is no evidence of any change in levels of violent behaviour."

The company said the voluntary redundancy scheme had been introduced to make the prison more efficient.

HMP Northumberland was formed in 2011 after a merger between HMP Acklington and HMP Castington.

The Ministry of Justice did not comment, on the grounds the prison had been privatised.

The Prison Officers' Association was unavailable for comment.

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