More than 100 prisoner protests recorded at Suffolk jail last year
Prisoners at HMP Highpoint protested against officers more than 100 times last year, data from the Ministry of Justice has revealed.
Statistics from Her Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service (HMPPS) show that inmates at the Suffolk prison were involved in 104 protest incidents in 2017-18 such as barricading themselves in cells and blocking doors.
Numbers have fallen considerably since the previous year, but experts warn that this could be because of prison staff under-recording incidents.
In prisons across England and Wales there were a total of 6,719 protests in 2017-18, a 19% rise on the previous year.
According to HMPPS, there are four types of protesting behaviour: barricades, hostage incidents, concerted indiscipline and incidents at height.
The most common type of protests across England and Wales were incidents at height – which include prisoners climbing onto safety netting, portable buildings or up trees.
There were 36 recorded incidents at height last year at Highpoint, which is in Stradishall, near Newmarket.
Peter Dawson, director of the Prison Reform Trust and a former governor of High Down Prison in Surrey, said grievances that cause protests are mostly “day-to-day things”, like not having access to medication, not being let out of cells at the right time or not getting clean clothing on a regular basis.
He said that a lack of staff has a “knock-on effect” on the day-to-day running of the rest of the prison, which can cause prisoners to become frustrated and increases the likelihood of protest incidents.
He added: “The solution is all about nipping things in the bud. Often these things have started with something that could be solved with a single phone call.”
There were also two hostage situations at Highpoint last year – which involve holding one or more people against their will.
Frances Crook, chief executive The Howard League for Penal Reform, said: “Someone could barricade themselves in their cell because they are terrified of violence levels on the wing, or because they want to harm themselves.”
She said that a low number of recorded incidents may not be an indicator of a prison doing well.
She added: “It depends on how things are recorded by prison staff. They could try to downplay problems in the prison by under-recording incidents, or exaggerate reports to try and show that they’re under pressure.”
HMPPS said that they have recruited an extra 3,500 prison officers over the last two years.
It said an additional £40million was being invested to “tackle the drugs and mobile phones which frequently fuel bad behaviour.”
A prison service spokesperson said: “We do not tolerate indiscipline, and anyone breaking the rules faces extra time behind bars.”