Prison inspectors highlighted serious concerns after discovering staff at one jail used a pillowcase as an improvised “hood” to stop an inmate spitting.
Not all staff involved recorded the use of the hood in their reports, and it was unclear if they had got the right authorisation in the first place, said a new report from HM Inspectorate of Prisons.
According to inspectors, the incident was among some issues “that caused serious concern” at HMP Bullingdon in Bicester, Oxfordshire.
Although deemed “improving”, the report from an unannounced inspection in July highlighted concerns about the use of a body belt and improvised “hood” to stop the inmate spitting at staff.
“We were particularly concerned about the use of a body belt and improvised hood (a pillowcase) on one prisoner,” the report said.
“In addition to our serious concern about the incident itself, we were also disturbed that the report to the use of force committee responsible for reviewing the incident did not disclose the use of either the body belt or the hood.”
Staff at the prison used force 74 times between January and June 2012, compared with 102 times in the same period last year, the report said.
There were three “planned incidents” of use of force in the 12 months leading up to the inspection, which had been appropriately authorised and filmed.
“The body belt had been used once in the last year and we had significant concerns about the case in question,” the report said.
“An improvised hood (a pillowcase) had been placed over a prisoner’s head to prevent him from spitting at staff; the prisoner had appeared calm prior to the body belt being applied.
“Not all staff present at the incident had recorded the use of the hood in their reports.
“The authorisation document and the orderly officer’s report had been poorly completed. It was unclear if, in the first instance, authorisation had been obtained at the correct level.
“The review of the incident by the use of force committee was compromised because the report submitted to the committee following the incident was incomplete and failed to mention the use of the body belt or hood.”
The incident was brought to the attention of the governor, who instigated an investigation, the report said.
HMP Bullingdon is a category C training prison which also serves courts in Oxfordshire and Berkshire. At the time of its inspection, its population was almost 25 per cent above normal capacity, inspectors found.