Berwick MP Sir Alan Beith to meet prison bosses after disturbance by inmates

An MP is to meet bosses of HMP Northumberland to discuss concerns following trouble by inmates last month

HMP Northumberland
HMP Northumberland

An MP is to meet with bosses of a North prison which was scene of a recent disturbance to discuss concerns over how it is being run.

Berwick MP Sir Alan Beith is to meet bosses at Sodexo, which owns HMP Northumberland, where 50 prisoners took over a wing one night last month.

He is to raise his “serious” concerns over staff reductions since the prison was taken over by the firm – widely believed to have contributed to the disturbance – and other operational issues at the site.

Sir Alan will be accompanied by his would be replacement Julie Pörksen, who last night claimed some prison officers’ families “are worried every time their relatives go to work.”

HMP Northumberland was formed by the merger of Castington and Acklington jails in 2011.

The category C 1,300 inmate jail was taken over by the French firm on December 1.

The company said it was to cut 200 jobs, sparking concerns over security arrangements which were taken up in parliament by Wansbeck MP Ian Lavery last month.

The takeover of the wing happened one Friday evening.

Sir Alan Beith
Sir Alan Beith

Reports suggest there was a stand-off, with inmates reportedly refusing to go back to their cells and riot officers on standby.

It is not believed anyone was injured.

The incident brought renewed concerns over security at the prison following the staff cuts.

On a recent visit to the region, justice secretary Chris Grayling said the disturbance had been caused by prisoners protesting at being asked to work longer days.

Sir Alan and Mrs Pörksen, who is their party’s candidate to replace him when he retires at the next election, are to meet Sodexo bosses, and representatives from the Prison Officers Association, at HMP Northumberland tomorrow.

Sir Alan said: “I have recently met a number of prison officers and former prison officers and I have serious concerns about staff reductions and other operational issues at HMP Northumberland.

“Since Sodexo took over running the prison on December 1, I have become increasingly worried about whether the safety of prison staff and prisoners can be maintained.”

Mrs Pörksen, who has also met a number of prison officers and their families recently, is to call on Sodexo to rethink staffing levels in the interests of safety, security and rehabilitation.

She said: “Some of the prison officers’ families have told me they are worried every time their relatives go to work.

“The changes at HMP Northumberland do not seem to be working and we also need to ask whether the prison is able to provide effective rehabilitation in the current circumstances.”

Sodexo recently said it reviews staffing levels at the site on a regular basis.


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