The Prisons Minister is to visit HMP Northumberland after north Northumberland’s MP raised safety concerns in the House of Commons yesterday.
Anne-Marie Trevelyan, MP for Berwick, was successful in being awarded a Westminster Hall debate yesterday on safety issues at the prison. Westminster Hall debates are short debates in which an MP can raise a specific issue and the Minister responsible must attend and respond.
Mrs Trevelyan has visited HMP Northumberland many times, including in the past few weeks, and has heard concerns from voluntary groups that the size and layout of the prison means that staff are stretched very thin, leaving them, as well as volunteers and prisoners, vulnerable should trouble start.
There is particular concern that the implementation of the smoking ban could cause unrest among the prison population – Mrs Trevelyan sought assurances from the Minister that the safety of officers and volunteers would not be compromised.
Mrs Trevelyan, who is a trustee of HMP Volunteer group the Oswin Project, said: “I am grateful to the Minister for acknowledging the incredible work of prison staff and volunteers and the work they do to prevent the cycle of re-offending. The Minister is aware of the safety concerns, and has pledged to come and visit the prison in the new year. He will also meet the staff and groups to talk things through himself.”
Prisons Ministers Andrew Selous said: “I thank and commend her not only for being a visitor, but for doing something practical to support the prison. She is absolutely right that safety is central to everything we are seeking to achieve in prisons. I welcome this debate as an opportunity to highlight the activity that is underway at HMP Northumberland to maintain safety and decency and to tackle violence.”
Mr Selous pledged to visit to the prison with Mrs Trevelyan in the new year and to talk to staff and the voluntary groups to have a better understanding of what the current situation is.