Radio Sandwell Local News

Riot officers regain control of HMP Birmingham prison

2016-12-17 11:14:46

HMP BirminghamRiot teams were deployed to tackle the disorder

HMP Birmingham prison rioters will "face the full force of the law," Justice Secretary Liz Truss has said.

The 12-hour riot at the jail on Friday has been described as the worst prison disturbance since the Strangeways jail riot 26 years ago.

Ms Truss said there would be a "thorough investigation" and violence "will not be tolerated".

UK prisons chief Michael Spurr said there were "serious problems" in jails that would not be solved overnight.

The Ministry of Justice said riot teams restored order to all four wings of HMP Birmingham just after 22:30 on Friday.

They were deployed to tackle the disorder, which is understood to have involved up to 600 inmates.

'Crisis in prisons'

Ms Truss said: "I want to pay tribute to the bravery and dedication of the prison officers who resolved this disturbance.

"This was a serious situation and a thorough investigation will now be carried out.

"Violence in our prisons will not be tolerated and those responsible will face the full force of the law."

The BBC understands that one prisoner was hurt during the riot and taken to hospital with a fractured jaw and broken eye socket.

Prison wings are now being inspected to assess the scale of the damage after prisoners took control of the category B prison on Friday morning.

HMP BirminghamAn unverified photo appears to show debris and damage caused during the disturbance

Mike Rolfe, national chairman of the Prison Officers Association, said more than 30 staff had left the Winson Green prison in recent weeks and compared the trouble to the notorious Strangeways riot in 1990.

He said: "We've been warning for a long time about the crisis in prisons and what we are seeing at Birmingham is not unique to Birmingham, but it certainly would seem that this is the most recent worst incident since the 1990 Strangeways riot."

Rodger Lawrence, chairman of the Birmingham prison Independent Monitoring Board, said his members had not seen anything of concern during a visit earlier this week, but said the riot "didn't come as a complete shock" as there had been "a build-up of frustration" over prison conditions.

Mr Spurr, who is chief executive of the National Offender Management Service Agency, said overcrowding, reduced staffing and drugs had put pressure on prisons.

"On a day by day basis governors and staff keep prisons safe and manage a very difficult population extremely well," he told BBC News.

"Yes, there are assaults, there is too much violence, but we are tackling that.

"It will take some time but events in prisons such as yesterday do happen on occasions."

He said a £1.3bn investment in new prisons over the next five years, which includes plans for more prison officers, drug tests for inmates on entry and exit from prisons, and more autonomy for governors, would help tackle the issues.

"Over the coming months and years, we will turn it around," he said.

HMP BirminghamAnother unverified photo circulated online purporting to show scenes from inside the prison

Trouble flared at the Birmingham prison, which is run by G4S, after an officer was "rushed" by inmates at around 09:00.

Violence quickly escalated and due to the scale of the disturbances the Prison Service took over the incident and specialist Tornado units were deployed to regain control.

Prison units from across the country were also drafted in to assist.

During the disturbance, the BBC was contacted by several men claiming to be prisoners at the jail, who said poor conditions were behind the disturbance.

The men, who said they were calling from inside HMP Birmingham, cited inadequate staff numbers, poor healthcare and nutrition.

They said being on "lockdown" in their cells all day was a major factor that contributed to the trouble.


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