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Pentonville prison: Violent incidents soar and use of force by officers rises ‘significantly’, report states

PUBLISHED: 16:59 22 August 2019 | UPDATED: 07:22 23 August 2019

File photo dated 29/04/13 of the centre of Pentonville Prison, London, where two prisoners have escaped from, the Ministry of Justice has said.

File photo dated 29/04/13 of the centre of Pentonville Prison, London, where two prisoners have escaped from, the Ministry of Justice has said.

PA Wire/PA Images

Violent incidents in Pentonville prison have spiked by more than 50 per cent and the use of force by officers has “risen significantly” since 2017, a report states.

Pentonville Prison. Picture: Charlotte Ball/PA WirePentonville Prison. Picture: Charlotte Ball/PA Wire

After a an unannounced visit in April, the chief inspector of prisons yesterday published a report on the dirty and overcrowded Victorian prison.

It reveals violence has "increased markedly" due to gang links, drugs, debt and "a high proportion of relatively more volatile younger prisoners" being given no support.

Inspectors also noted there's inadequate scrutiny or oversight of force by officers, and 45 per cent of inmates polled said it was "very/ quite easy" to score drugs, with 29pc of random drug tests coming back positive. Of those surveyed, 24pc said it was easy to get booze in the jail.

There have been four suicides since the last inspection in 2017, including Tyrone Givans' who hanged himself in February, leading to an inquest where the jury acknowledged failings by prison staff and Care UK contributed to his death.

Pentonville Prison in Caledonian Road. Picture: Charlotte Ball/PA ArchivePentonville Prison in Caledonian Road. Picture: Charlotte Ball/PA Archive

Frances Crook, chief exec of the Howard League for Prison Reform said: "Keeping men cooped up like battery hens in overcrowded cells with nothing to do is never going to help them to lead crime-free lives on release.

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"Boris Johnson has put himself at the centre of the fight to keep drugs out of prisons and prevent crime. Reports like this reveal the scale of the challenge and the Howard League will hold him to account for what happens next.

"It is hard to understand how splashing £100million on security measures will address the fact that, too often, prisoners are given nothing to do and released with nowhere to live."

Pentonville Prison in Caledonian Road. Picture: Anthony Devlin/PA WirePentonville Prison in Caledonian Road. Picture: Anthony Devlin/PA Wire

Nearly a third of inmates were locked in their cells during the working day, and almost all prisoners under the age of 22 said they typically spend less than two hours out of their cells. The prison should only hold 694 people but had 1,082 inmates at the end of last month.

Kate Littler used to work in Pentonville's drug and alcohol service but now co-produces the Bird podcast about prisons.

She said: "It's an old estate so people do have to share showers and stuff. But it was a positive place to work because staff are committed to help people."

Phil Copple, director general for prisons, said: "A new drugs strategy has been introduced to combine more cell searches with better addiction treatment, while a scanner to intercept illicit items in mail has been deployed.

"We are investing an extra £100m to boost security and safety across the estate to stop drugs, weapons and mobile phones getting in so we can protect staff, cut violence, and rehabilitate offenders."

View the full report here.

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