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Last Updated: Wednesday, 8 October, 2003, 03:32 GMT 04:32 UK
Inquiry after prison riot
Lewes prision
The prison has struggled to overcome a poor image

An inquiry has been launched after inmates rioted at Lewes Prison, East Sussex, injuring one officer and damaging property.

About 25 to 30 prisoners were involved in the disturbance, which started about 2000 BST on Tuesday just before the inmates were due to be locked up for the night.

Inmates were all back in their cells by about 0200 BST, an officer from the East Sussex prison confirmed to the BBC.

About 20 inmates have already been transferred from the prison.

Some could face possible criminal charges, the Prison Service said.

No cells were out of use after the riot, but two offices were damaged as furniture was destroyed and taps were left running.


"Specially-trained control and restraint staff intervened to restore order and control in A Wing at 1.15am," the Prison Service said.

"By 1.33am the incident was over."

Earlier, one officer had been injured by broken glass in the riot which the prison service described as "an incident of concerted indiscipline on A wing at Lewes Prison".

Staff had been pulled off the wing after they were unable to deal with the rioters.

The restraint teams, trained to deal with violent situations, had arrived about four hours after the riot began.

Firefighters, on standby with other emergency services outside the prison, had to enter the building to extinguish deliberately lit fires.


BBC reporter John Young said 25 unarmed police were positioned outside the prison walls for much of the night.

Lewes prison is a category B prison and was last year rated 132 out of 133 in the prison performance league tables.

It was built in 1853 and houses many prisoners on remand awaiting trial and awaiting sentencing.

A report last year by the independent watchdog, the Board of Visitors, criticised conditions on some wings as "humiliating, unhealthy and degrading" and said too many drugs were getting into the prison.

Standards had improved by this year, with huge improvements recorded in the areas of suicide prevention and drugs, the board said.

Its report for 1999-2000 described some cells as being "reminiscent of dungeons" while at least two wings were condemned as so poor as to possibly contravene the Human Rights Act.

The government has recently spent 1m on improving the health centre at the prison.

Prison praised despite problems
01 Jul 03  |  Southern Counties

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