Is a terrorist attack in a UK Prison is ‘just a matter of time’?

STANDFIRST: We review the safety of prison staff in the face of an increase in assaults, manning pressure and the radicalisation of inmates.

FEATURE: ‘Extremism is a danger to society and a threat to public safety. In prison, it endangers prisoners and staff, encourages criminal behaviour and terrorism, and undermines the proper functioning of the justice system,” read November 2016’s White Paper on prison reform.

Almost 12-months on from its publication, the Ministry of Justice has taken steps towards the implementation of change. It’s launched a new prison counter-extremism task force (April) and a new facility to hold radicalised inmates away from the main prison population with the aim of preventing the spread of extremist ideologies.

The impact of these initiatives continues to be hampered, however, according to commentators by the wider pressures faced by the Prison Service.

The Report by the Chief Inspector of Prisons, published in July this year warned that in adult prisons assaults on staff had jumped by 38%, the number of suicides had doubled since 2013 to 113, and 21 out of 29 local and training prisons were rated poor or not sufficiently good for safety.

Peter Clarke, the former Metropolitan police head of counter-terrorism, was even more damning in his assessment of the youth prison service, with no young offender institution or privately run secure training centre officially inspected in early 2017, judged safe to hold children and young people.

This has led to warnings that a terrorist incident inside a UK prison is just a matter of time. Writing in the Spectator in April former prison governor and senior Home Office official Ian Acheson warned that the ‘next terror attack in a jail is waiting to happen’.

With general unrest among the prison population continuing over the summer, including at the time of writing, an as yet unsubstantiated report of a terror-related assaults by an inmate on both another prisoner and prison officer at HMP Weyland, in Norfolk, it makes prison staff safety a key issue.

The Government is again addressing this in the long-term, committing to recruit more prison officers, which by its own tally fell by a third between 2010 and 2015 to just over 23,000. With a prison population consistently hovering around the 85,000 mark, this leaves 3.6 inmates for each operational prison staffer.

It has also committed to a wider building programme to create up to 10,000 modern prison places by 2020, including four new super prisons – but again, this is something which will not be delivered overnight.

“It’s clearly a very difficult situation for the prison service which faces challenges of overcrowding, while trying to keep staff and inmates safe”, says Dave Broxton, Managing Director, Bohle.

“The Government is taking steps to address this with longer term initiatives but it’s about what can be done now to improve observation of inmates. This includes those that represent a threat to others, in addition to those who represent a threat to themselves.”

Bohle offers an extensive range of convex security and safety correctional mirrors developed specifically for the sector, featuring an incredibly robust and tamper-proof construction with specific anti-ligature features. In eliminating blind corners and supporting more effective observation of inmates, these can make a significant contribution to officer and prisoner safety.

Manufactured from high performance and tough acrylic vacuum metalized aluminium composite, the DuraVision range of observation mirrors has been specially developed for the correctional environment. They deliver a crystal-clear image but have also been manufactured to be highly resistant to attack featuring a steel powder-coated casing and tough, almost indestructible, polycarbonate facing.

This means that they are suitable for use in cells, where monitoring of inmates or young offenders is critical. Options include a ceiling mounted dome mirror, a half face mirror and quarter face mirror for optimum positioning and installation, whatever the layout of the space.

Bohle also manufactures an inspection mirror which can be used to view above or below hard to see spaces and a look-under roller-based mirror, specifically designed for checking under large areas, for example delivery vehicles.

Broxton continued: “The challenges in our prisons, particularly older prisons are self-evident. Addressing them is complex, multi-faceted and its clear, won’t be delivered overnight. In the meantime prison officers are having to manage these challenges day-to-day.

“The improved observation of prisoners, is a small, but crucial element in that wider solution improving the safety of staff and vulnerable inmates.

“It also facilitates more effective observation of inmates in general. This is clearly advantageous for prison officers regardless of the motivations or the reasons for inmate imprisonment.”

For more visit the Bohle website, email or call the customer services team free for more information.

0800 616151

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Me and You Education is a collaboration between two companies with divergent backgrounds that provides deep insights into the murky and complex world of Counter Terrorism.