Prison wing disturbance resolved
Sunday 3rd November 2013, 6:01AM GMT.
Government cuts to prisons sparked a disturbance involving around 40 inmates at a jail in Kent, the Prison Officers’ Association have warned.
Police and fire crews had to be deployed to Maidstone Prison when the trouble erupted in one of the wings.
The Ministry of Justice confirmed that it was resolved last night. It is believed to have lasted more than three hours.
A prison services spokeswoman said the incident had been resolved without any injuries to staff or prisoners.
There was no evidence of damage, she added.
“An investigation is under way and the perpetrators will be dealt with appropriately by the prison,” she said.
A second demonstration by prisoners at Rye Hill Prison, near Rugby in Warwickshire, was unrelated to the Maidstone incident, the prison services spokeswoman said.
“There was a passive demonstration at HMP Rye Hill where around 60 offenders refused to return to their cells,” she said.
“This was peacefully resolved within a few hours.”
Prison Officers Association vice chairman Ralph Valerio said the Maidstone Prison riot was in response to new regime changes and staff cuts that resulted in prisoners having to spend more times in their cells.
“Try to put yourself in the shoes of the offender – you find yourself spending more time locked up with less time to be able to call your family and less time to be able to have social interaction with the staff and with other offenders on that wing then it can have a detrimental effect,” he told Sky News.
“As a trade union we have been warning against this for some time.
“The prison system is going through a tremendous amount of change at a tremendous rate of pace and it’s a warning that the rate of change is unprecedented.”
Maidstone, with an inmate population of about 600, is a category C training prison that predominantly houses sex offenders from the Kent and Sussex areas.
The prison also takes in a number of foreign prisoners with more than 18 months to serve.
Rye Hills a category B training prison holding 664 men who have been sentenced to more than four years, and have at least 18 months left to serve.
Criminologist Professor David Wilson said prison guards probably enacted Operation Tornado to bring the latest riot under control.
It is a proven method using specialist officers that has been used many times before, he said.
“These are very well-tested systems and so it will be about trying to bring order back to HMP Maidstone,” he told Sky News.
“In these situations it’s usually a question of being some particular incident that ignites the prisoners who want to take this kind of action and sometimes that action gets out of control.”
Mr Valerio said the staff were well trained to deal with the situation.
“We have a contingency plan, the prison service is very, very good at dealing with these sorts of situations and the staff involved in that situation are highly professional,” he said.
The disturbances come just days after a clampdown on prison perks began to be rolled out.
Under changes to the Incentives and Earned Privileges scheme, prisoners in England and Wales will have to earn privileges including the right to wear their own clothes.
Certificate 18-rated movies and subscription channels have also been banned from private prisons.
Mr Valerio said the government can expect to see more disruption across all prisons as a result of the scheme and budget cuts which have impacted staffing levels.
“Staff had been warning that unrest was growing among the prisoners at that prison,” he told the BBC.
“We can expect to see that no just at Maidstone but across the prison service in England and Wales.
“Prisons will potentially become more dangerous places as this scheme is rolled out.”
He said contact with staff is crucial for prisoners
A Prison Service spokeswoman added: “All our prisons run a safe and secure regime and are staffed appropriately.
“We are currently introducing reforms to the prison system that will provide better value for taxpayers while protecting the public and improving the chances of prisoners being rehabilitated.”