5 January 2017

HMP Northumberland: Number of Officers Almost Halved Since Privatisation


Figures released by the Ministry of Justice confirm that the number of officers working at HMP Northumberland has almost halved since the establishment was privatised.

Sodexo Justice Services took over the management of HMP Northumberland on 1st December 2013. Prior to that the prison was managed by HM Prison Service. The number of prisoners at HMP Northumberland has remained broadly the same since privatisation and currently stands at a little over 1,300.

In September 2013 HM Prison Service employed 318 full-time equivalent Band 3-5 Prison Officers at the establishment. These officers closely supervised the prisoners during their time in custody.

In addition there were 96 full-time equivalent Operational Support Grade staff, who helped with perimeter security, escort duties, searching prisoners' property, supervising visits etc.

By 31st January 2014, only two months after Sodexo took charge, the number of full-time equivalent Prison Custody Officers was 259, which represented a decrease of around 20% in the number of officers since privatisation.

By 31st December 2015 the number of full-time equivalent Prison Custody Officers had fallen to 185, which represents a decrease of 42% in the number of officers since privatisation.

Violence and trafficking is said to be rife at HMP Northumberland, with the following incidents taking place in the last year:
  • In February 2016 three members of staff were hospitalised when a prisoner set fire to his cell.
  • In March 2016 prisoner Graham Lindo, a convicted robber and drug dealer, dragged a fellow inmate into his cell, locked the door and raped him at knifepoint. The career criminal, who was "off his head" on drugs at the time of the attack, was jailed for an additional 6 years and placed on the Sex Offender's Register for life.
  • In April 2016 an officer was taken hostage by prisoners and his keys were compromised. Sodexo spent £500k replacing locks at the prison as a result.
  • In August 2016 it was reported that two members of staff had been hospitalised as a result of separate attacks by prisoners.
  • In September 2016 it was reported that prisoners had threatened staff with makeshift weapons and smashed up the wing.
  • In October 2016 more than £350,000 of the synthetic "designer drug" Spice was discovered during a search.
  • In November 2016 a video emerged showing prisoners at the Category C establishment apparently high on drink and drugs.
We first made our request for information to the Ministry of Justice on 11th August 2016. The Ministry of Justice has only just provided a response, well outside the 20 working day time limit required by law. We have complained to the Information Commissioner's Office about the Ministry of Justice's poor handling of this request.

The full text of our request appears below:

Public Authority:
Ministry of Justice

Their Reference Number:
107003

Request by FOI By Proxy (sent 11th August 2016):
Dear Ministry of Justice,

I am making this request under the terms of section 1 of the Freedom of Information Act 2000.

I am aware that Sodexo Justice Services took over the management of the former HMP Acklington and HMP Castington on 1st December 2013. At that time the two establishments were combined to form what is now known as HMP Northumberland.

Please provide the following information:

1. The number of full-time equivalent Prison Officers employed at HMP Acklington each year from 2010 to privatisation at the end of 2013. If possible please also provide a breakdown of fully qualified Prisoner Officers and Operational Support Grade Officers.
2. The maximum number of prisoners detained at HMP Acklington in each year from 2010 to privatisation at the end of 2013.
3. The number of full-time equivalent Prison Officers employed at HMP Castington each year from 2010 to privatisation at the end of 2013. If possible please also provide a breakdown of fully qualified Prisoner Officers and Operational Support Grade Officers.
4. The maximum number of prisoners detained at HMP Castington in each year from 2010 to privatisation at the end of 2013.
5.The number of full-time equivalent Prison Custody Officers (e.g. Sodexo's equivalent of a HMP Prison Officer) employed at HMP Northumberland in each year from privatisation to the current time.
6. The maximum number of prisoners detained at HMP Northumberland in each year from privatisation to the current time.

In accordance with section 11 of the Act, please provide your response in electronic format to the return email address associated with this request.

Many thanks for your help with this matter.

Yours faithfully,

[Name]
On behalf of FOI By Proxy

Response by the Ministry of Justice (received 3rd January 2017):
The Ministry of Justice provided the following tables of information:



The Ministry of Justice directed us towards this online spreadsheet for prisoner numbers.

Supporting Material:
You can view the Ministry of Justice's letter of response here.
The ICO Decision Notice, once available, can be viewed here.

Edit (14/1/17): Shortly after researching and publishing this article we contacted the Newcastle Chronicle and informed it about our story. Journalist Michael Muncaster was quickly in touch and indicated his desire to use our information in an article, which you can view here. Unfortunately Michael omitted to acknowledge FOI By Proxy as the source of his information, which we find a bit disappointing. We shall certainly consider closely whether or not to share our future research findings with the Chronicle.

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