The British government has taken over the running of a “squalid” prison after inspectors found fearful staff locking themselves in offices, with growing levels of violence carried out with “near impunity.”
Birmingham prison, which was hit by rioting two years ago after a member of staff lost their keys, is run by G4S Security Group, the world’s largest security company.
The Ministry of Justice said on Monday it taken over the prison for an initial six-month period after an inspection found blood, urine, vomit and faeces left in cells, showers and corridors, and staff asleep during lockup periods.
Inspectors to the prison noted feeling physically affected by the drugs in the atmosphere.
“When inspectors at one point raised the fact that drugs were clearly being smoked on a wing, the response from staff was to shrug,” wrote Peter Clarke, chief inspector of prisons for England and Wales, in a letter to the Justice secretary.
The inspection found nearly all of the windows in the older wings of the Victorian prison building had been smashed, and observation panels in cell doors were frequently smashed and then covered by prisoners.
Prisoners Don’t Feel Safe
Prisoners said that they did not feel safe even in their locked cells, with urine squirted through broken observations panels.
The report described one incident of a inmate with personal odour problems being hosed down with a fire hose by other inmates through the observation panel.
Staff was fearful of challenging prisoners, following a series of attacks and threats on staff, including an arson attack in a secure car park that destroyed nine staff vehicles, including two belonging to inspectors.
Clarke said he had not seen anything like the conditions in the prison before.
“Think of squalor, filth, the air hanging heavy with the smell of drugs, the dilapidated physical environment, a sense of great instability, the feeling that at any time violence could break out. Put all that together, and what you have is a sense of an establishment that could not possibly fulfill any of the objectives of imprisonment,” he told BBC Radio.
Across England and Wales, there are 123 prison establishments, including youth offender institutes and other detention centers, of which 17 are run by private companies.
The Ministry of Justice said that in general contracted prisons are among the best performing across the prison estate.
G4S, which employs 570,000 people in more than 90 countries, said the prison faced “exceptional challenges.”
Reuters contributed to this report
From The Epoch Times