Source — The Independent

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UK: the litany of failures that forced government to take over jail from G4S

HMP Birmingham, one of the UK’s largest jails, has played host to rapidly rising drug-fuelled violence and serious disorder in recent years, forcing the government to step in and take back control of the embattled privately-run prison from G4S.

Following the latest inspection, the Chief Inspector of Prisons raised the “significant concerns” about the state of HMP Birmingham, prompting Peter Clarke to issue an urgent notification to the government, warning it had “slipped into crisis” following a “dramatic deterioration” in the last 18 months.

Inspectors revealed multiple cases of “appalling bullying” with prisoners found to be squirting urine or throwing faeces through broken observation panels at other inmates, a vulnerable man was discovered sat on the springs of his bed in the absence of a mattress which had been stolen days earlier, while another prisoner - who was struggling with issues around personal hygiene - had been repeatedly sprayed with water from a fire hose by other inmates, soaking him and his possessions.

The prison’s Independent Monitoring Board has previously reported overcrowding in the prison with inmates enduring cramped conditions in cockroach and rat infested cells. A June 2017 inspection found there was too much fighting on wings, often triggered by easy access to “problematic” new psychoactive substances, with many inmates feeling “unsafe” behind bars. Inspectors were told it was “easy to get drugs” by half of the prisoners surveyed, with one in seven claiming they became addicted to drugs while in the jail.

Mobile phones and drones were used to arrange and deliver contraband, such as the highly addictive Spice, among other drugs, contributing to a climate where drug-taking was commonplace. In April 2018, inmates live-streamed themselves in footage which appeared to show them relaxing while smoking drugs and using mobile phones.

Nine cars were set alight during an arson attack on the staff car park earlier this month after two men, one of whom was armed with a handgun, cut their way into the parking compound before setting vehicles alight until they were eventually confronted by prison staff. The incident came as an unannounced inspection of the Victorian-era remand prison, which holds inmates for around six weeks while they await trial for alleged offences, was carried out.

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