Management blamed for riots at two prisons

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Poor management at a Yorkshire jail was largely to blame for three nights of rioting during which two prisoners and three staff were injured, an internal investigation into the disturbances has found.

More than £1m of taxpayers’ money has been spent on repairing Moorland Prison and Young Offenders’ Institution, near Doncaster, after rampaging inmates started fires, smashed up cells, took hostages, overturned pool tables and hurled missiles at officers in November last year.

Jail chiefs initially claimed the trouble was triggered by prisoners from rival gangs, but that theory has been refuted in a “restricted” Prison Service report which concludes that wider problems at the prison played a major part.

The report’s author, senior investigating officer Danny McAllister, wrote: “There is no evidence to suggest that high levels of collusion between prisoners played a part in the disturbances. Neither can ‘gang related’ dynamics be cited as the cause.

“Rather, the events which took place illuminate a picture of a prison without a ‘good enough’ grasp of the procedural, dynamic and human factors at work in maintaining order and decently focused control.

“This less than effective operating environment allowed the signs and symbols of prisoner unrest to accumulate and go unheeded.”

The report is the first public document to shed light on why trouble broke out at the prison on three consecutive nights from November 2 last year.

It is heavily edited, with many of its findings withheld, and concludes by making 16 recommendations for the prison to improve.

Mr McAllister’s investigation team arrived at the prison on November 8 and stayed for almost a fortnight, inspecting the damaged buildings and interviewing prisoners and staff.

The team found that the disturbances had been handled well and prison staff “acted with high levels of commitment and professionalism”.

But investigators criticised the prison’s schemes to engage prisoners in work and reward them for good behaviour, finding them to be “not fit for purpose”.

The report also highlights concerns about some of the jail’s facilities and refers to the dismal findings of previous official inspections.

Mr McAllister’s team found one of the house blocks to be “bright and clean” but another “looked dark, dirty and neglected” even in areas left untouched by the rioters.

The report states: “Prisoners interviewed by the investigation team reported concerns about the cleanliness of showers and limited access to them, sometimes only every two to three days.”

The investigation found that the jail was not overcrowded but its population had risen sharply before the trouble broke out.

Relationships between staff and prisoners were found to be “less than satisfactory” by HM Chief Inspector of Prisons in 2005 and 2008.

Mr McAllister concluded that, for all these reasons, the prison was “brittle” and, although the riots were not readily foreseeable, it was “liable, at some point, to fracture”.

A South Yorkshire Police investigation has identified up to 110 suspects, and detectives are in talks with the Crown Prosecution Service over how many should be charged.

A Prison Service spokeswoman said: “The report into HMP/YOI Moorland produced a series of recommendations which the National Offender Management Service (NOMS) has accepted and is implementing.

“A number of key recommendations have been implemented already. We take a zero-tolerance approach to violence in prisons. The management of violence and its reduction, including support for staff, is central to successful prison management and fundamental to NOMS’ objectives.”