MP wants answers on prison ‘stand-off’

HMP Northumberland.
HMP Northumberland.

MP Sir Alan Beith is to question private firm Sodexo about the disturbance at HMP Northumberland on Friday night.

As reported on the Gazette website, the incident began around 7.30pm on Friday when prisoners refused to return to their cells in one wing of the Acklington prison, which was taken over by Sodexo Justice Services in December.

The BBC reported that the Prison Officers Association’s (POA) general secretary Steve Gillan said there was a ‘stand-off’ at the prison, but there have been no reports of any injuries.

A spokesman for Sodexo said: “We can confirm there was a disturbance at HMP Northumberland. It was confined to part of one wing of the prison and has been resolved. We will carry out an investigation into this incident.”

Sir Alan said: “I was actually in a meeting near to the prison with prison officers and Liberal Democrat campaigner Julie Porksen when news came through of the disturbance – we had organised the meeting because of the concerns of officers about staff reductions and changes in security procedures at the prison, highlighted in recent incidents.

“As well as putting questions to the company, I will be raising with the Prisons Minister whether the contract conditions are being strictly observed. This prison has had a good safety and security record, but I have already questioned whether it can be maintained with the staff reductions which the company is carrying out.”

Julie Porksen added: “Many prison officers have raised their concerns with me, and I am working with Sir Alan to make sure that these concerns are raised at the highest level. Prison officers are doing an extremely important job in difficult circumstances.”