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Last Updated: Wednesday, 3 September, 2003, 07:35 GMT 08:35 UK
Prison 'ignored bullies'
HM Prison Dovegate
Dovegate opened two years ago
Staff at a private prison in Staffordshire "ignored bullies", according to a report by the chief inspector of prisons.

Inexperienced staff, low staffing levels and a high turnover at Dovegate Prison, an 800-inmate category B institution near Uttoxeter, were all problems highlighted by Anne Owers.

She said drug use at the jail was "prevalent", and added that measures to combat the problem were given a "low priority".

Ms Owers' team also found that 17% of inmates at Dovegate reported being kicked, punched or assaulted by another prisoner, and recommended that 135 separate improvements be made at the prison.

There was a worrying lack of experience and confidence amongst a young, locally-recruited, staff
Anne Owers

The report said there was a reluctance to stop bullying at the jail, even though an anti-bullying strategy had been put in place.

"This reluctance was, we believed, because staff did not want to confront prisoners and it was easier to ignore potential bullies," said Ms Owers.

"There was a worrying lack of experience and confidence amongst a young, locally-recruited, staff few of whom had any previous experience, and who were operating with low staffing levels and high staff turnover."

Dovegate's operator, Premier Custodial Group, has a 15-year contract with the Home Office to run the jail, which opened in July 2001.

Fewer employees

Some aspects of the prison's performance were praised, however.

The report said Dovegate was clean and inmates did not have to spend too much time in their cells.

The standard of catering was also praised.

Ms Owers added: "Staff worked extremely hard to meet prisoners' needs and prisoners appreciated this."

But a total of 135 recommendations for improvement were made.

Dovegate's director, Kevin Rogers, said they had fewer employees than most state-run prisons.

He said: "We are proud of our staff and the excellent job they do.

"The report notes a number of areas where Dovegate can improve and we have and will take steps to act upon those recommendations as the prison grows more established and successful."

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