‘Stand-off’ at Northumberland prison

HMP Northumberland.
HMP Northumberland.

A ‘stand-off’ took place at HMP Northumberland last night, but the incident has been brought under control.

Reports suggest that the incident began around 7.30pm last night 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.

Mr Gillan told the BBC that prison officer Tornado teams, trained to deal with riots, were put on standby on Friday night in case the situation ‘got out of hand’. “We do not know what has sparked this major incident, but I do know that 50 plus inmates have taken over a wing,” he said, describing the incident as ‘concerted indiscipline’.

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.”

As reported in the Gazette, HMP Northumberland has been managed by Sodexo Justice Services since December, having signed a 15-year contract, worth an estimated £250million over its term.

In October last year, it was announced that up to 200 jobs could go at the site, which was formed by the merger of HMP Acklington and HMYOI Castington in 2011. The Gazette was told that 120 prison officer jobs could go, alongside administration roles and other positions, with staff and the POA raising safety fears.

A statement from Sodexo at the time said: “We are currently in consultation with the Ministry of Justice and the recognised unions regarding employment arrangements at HMP Northumberland. We have shared our proposed reduction in staffing numbers. We aim to achieve this reduction by voluntary means if possible. Formal consultation with employees will commence after December 1, 2013, when HMP Northumberland employees transfer to Sodexo Justice Services.”