Page last updated at 23:29 GMT, Tuesday, 9 June 2009 00:29 UK

Prison staff 'feared for safety'

Haverigg prison
The category C prison can hold 644 inmates

Staff patrolled areas of a prison in pairs because of safety fears, an inspection has found.

HMP Haverigg in Cumbria was rife with bullying and victimisation, and nearly two thirds of inmates said drugs were easily available, the report said.

Chief Inspector of Prisons Dame Anne Owers concluded that the former RAF camp was not safe and provided few opportunities for prisoners.

Improvements have been made since the inspection in February 2008, she added.

Haverigg, a category C prison which was converted from an RAF training centre in 1967, can hold 644 inmates.

At the time of the announced inspection the facility had come through a troubled period and problems had been recognised, said Dame Anne.

This is one of a number of recent reports from Anne Owers that show the prison estate to be creaking at the seams
Geoff Dobson, Prison Reform Trust

But some prisoners were being kept in the former RAF living quarters, and more than 40% of prisoners felt unsafe.

The report stated: "The prison was not performing sufficiently well against any of the inspectorate's key tests and was performing poorly in relation to safety.

"The design and supervision of the billeted accommodation, particularly one unit where even staff had to patrol in pairs, was a major obstacle to safety."

Dame Anne said staff were generally committed to improving the prison and that some improvements were evident, but improved systems and more outside investment were needed.

She added: "If that cannot be provided, the role of Haverigg needs to be reviewed, as it cannot conceivably be an effective and safe training prison, whatever the efforts of its managers and staff."

Phil Wheatley, director general of the government's National Offender Management Service, said: "Further action has already been taken, since the inspection, to improve safety in the billet accommodation and this has resulted in more effective supervision of the units.

"A new drug supply reduction strategy has recently been put into operation and a new compliance testing regime is being implemented."

Commenting on the report, Geoff Dobson, deputy director of the Prison Reform Trust, said: "This is one of a number of recent reports from Anne Owers that show the prison estate to be creaking at the seams.

"If prison is a brutalising experience, it will undermine rehabilitation efforts and damage the fabric of society."

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