Page last updated at 23:01 GMT, Saturday, 11 April 2009 00:01 UK

Prison riot brought under control


Local resident Nick Crossfield captured footage of smoke rising from the jail

Specialist prison officers have brought a riot at HMP Ashwell in Rutland under control.

The Prison Officers Association (POA) said about 420 inmates had been moved to other prisons and 180 had been secured in cells.

Up to 75% of the jail has reportedly been damaged in the violence.

Pete Chapple, national executive for the POA said: "We anticipated it would go on throughout the night but it has climaxed earlier than we thought."

In a statement the Prison Service said the incident had been "successfully concluded" at 2245 BST.

"No staff were injured and there were minor injuries to three prisoners," it said.

Police have secured a three-mile perimeter around the category C jail near Oakham.

Prisons are "bursting at the seams", according to Glyn Travis

Smoke has been seen coming out of the prison on Saturday and fire engines remain at the scene.

Mr Chapple said one prisoner was still to be found but was being tracked using a helicopter with heat-seeking equipment.

"There was about a hardcore of 60-odd, they were the hardcore who weren't going to surrender but they have been accounted for and put on vans," he said.

"It will take a long-time to clear up the mess though, around 75% of the jail is damaged."

Earlier, POA spokesman Glyn Travis said a decision to remove privileges from some prisoners had led to the incident.

"One of those prisoners was not happy with that decision and around midnight he decided to incite other prisoners to react and that's what started the riot.

"It moved on from there to a situation which became extremely dangerous and violent."

A Ministry of Justice spokeswoman confirmed there had been "concerted indiscipline" from a number of prisoners at the jail.

The BBC's Barnie Choudhury said only residents are being allowed to pass through the police cordon around the site.

Colin Moses, national chairman of the POA, said the association had warned that this type of disturbance might occur.

He said: "The current prison population and lack of appropriate prison places has resulted in prisoners being transferred away from their homes and put in lower category prisons resulting in more drugs, violence and gang cultures in our prisons.

"The drive for savings has led to fewer staff, a reduction in regime and offending behaviour programmes being cancelled. End result unhappy and bored prisoners."

Ashwell map
We don't feel threatened and it's normally quite peaceful
Resident Nick Crossfield

Shadow Justice spokesman Edward Garnier has called upon the government to rethink the way it accommodates prisoners.

"My experience is that our prisons are woefully overcrowded. That is the rock upon which the prison system is floundering at the minute.

"Because of overcrowding, category B prisoners - that's to say, the most serious prisoners - are being pushed down into the category C estate and category C prisoners are being pushed out to early into the open prison estate."

A Ministry of Justice spokesperson said that Ashwell was not overcrowded and only housed category C prisoners.

Justice Minister Lord Bach said he did not believe the incident was linked to staffing or budget issues.

"This is a rare but not unknown situation - there have been only three serious disturbances in seven years.

"Expert staff are doing a great job under very difficult circumstances and with much courage."

Nick Crossfield, who lives near the prison, said there was a lot of police activity at the site and he could hear inmates shouting. He said: "We don't feel threatened and it's normally quite peaceful.

"We don't normally get this kind of activity around here."

The prison, built on a former Army camp, started as an open prison in 1955 and was converted to a category C jail in 1987.

It has a maximum capacity of 619 inmates and is one-and-a-half miles from Oakham.

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