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Last Updated: Monday, 14 August 2006, 23:55 GMT 00:55 UK
Riot-hit prison 'reasonably safe'
A Kent prison which experienced violent riots five years ago has been described by inspectors as "reasonably safe".

According to a new report by HM Inspectorate of Prisons, Rochester Prison is improving, but it still has a number of issues to tackle.

The young offenders' institute, which has 392 inmates, still has to do more to combat bullying and provide more meaningful work for prisoners, it said.

In 2001, the prison was the scene of a riot where a guard was taken hostage.

We are making sure we run a part-time regime - nobody is locked up all day
John Wilson, governor of Rochester Prison

Following an announced inspection in January, the chief inspector of prisons, Anne Owers, said the institute had come a long way since then.

Inspectors found that it performed well in the areas of safety, respect, and staff-prisoner relations, but less well in providing meaningful work for prisoners.

Ms Owers said those that were not "employed" were only let out of their cells for two-and-a-half hours a day, whereas others were "unlocked" for five hours longer.

She said this fell short of the goal of having prisoners unlocked for 10 hours a day.

"One of the key things to prevent reoffending is if they [prisoners] get work skills," she said.

Activity centre

Governor of the prison, John Wilson, admitted that it did not have enough "for everybody to do".

"We are making sure we run a part-time regime - nobody is locked up all day," he said.

Mr Wilson added that the prison was building an activity centre to house and expand their courses in painting and decorating, hairdressing, and industrial cleaning.

Basic numeracy and literacy courses were also offered.

Inspectors also expressed concern that foreign prisoners felt less safe than others, and that there should be better anti-bullying plans.

Mr Wilson said the report was quite fair and reasonably reflected the "excellent work" done by staff.

"We accept there is more to do," he said.


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