An Inspector Calls
by Bill Hartley
An inspection report into HM Prison Birmingham was released on August 16th. What the inspectors found made the front pages of several newspapers. It illustrates the short corporate memory of Prison Service Headquarters and a knack for getting into trouble that could have been avoided. They can’t say they weren’t warned either. The 2016 riot at the prison ought to have been an indicator of something being seriously wrong but afterwards attention seems to have wandered. A riot tends to leave a legacy of staff feeling demoralised and fearful. To put this right, strong and visible leadership is called for.
Whilst the privatisation or ‘market testing’ of prisons ended some time ago the legacy is still embedded in the system. Originally it tended to be obscure ‘training’ prisons or new builds that were that were contracted out to private security companies. The big Victorian local prisons which mostly lie in our larger cities were left alone. These jails carry out the core work of the Prison Service: holding remand prisoners, getting them to court and, post sentence, allocated on to a training prison. They are complex institutions which also have to live with significant overcrowding. Continue reading