The serious problems exposed in the Panorama programme about HMP Northumberland – which locally we have been aware of for some time, but whom in local or national government ever listens to the people? – must be rectified.
I think you will now hear the well-doers spouting forth about prisoners’ rights. They will commission reports and strategies aplenty by various expensive consultants.
The reports and strategies will be discussed at committee meetings and a list of recommendations will be produced. Those in a position to make things right may demonstrate their concerns with comments that avoid any commitment to implement urgently-needed action. In the meantime Sodexo will continue to make large profits.
Sodexo should be given seven days to bring HMP Northumberland to a position where it can be confirmed, to the satisfaction of the community surrounding it, to be staffed at the right level and a secure facility.
Failing that, the control of the prison should temporarily pass to the Military Provost Marshal and the Military Provost Guard, to be run under the same criteria as the Military Corrective Training Centre (MCTC) in Colchester.
The civilian prison officers who wish to remain at the prison should receive continuation training at Colchester to train them to run the facility on MCTC lines.
As for the prisoners, knowing there was a properly disciplined organisation in control, they would be safe, healthy and settled.