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  • Wed, 23 Jan 2019 07:29:05 +0000: Rory Stewart: ‘I’ll resign if prison violence doesn’t improve’ | Erwin James - Prisons and probation | The Guardian

    The prisons minister says airport-style security in prisons would cut off the supply of drugs to inmates

    By any measure our prisons are in a state of crisis. Last year, there were almost 50,000 incidents of self-harm among the 82,500 prisoners in England and Wales. Drug-fuelled violence is at an all-time high, with more than 32,500 assaults, 10,000 of which were against staff. At least 87 prisoners took their own lives, five were murdered and more than 300 died of ill-health or natural causes. The scale of the problem is not lost on the prisons minister, Rory Stewart, who has vowed to resign if he doesn’t achieve improvements.

    One of the major reasons that there is so much violence is that there are too many drugs, and one of the reasons for that is insufficient perimeter security, says Stewart. He intends to make it more difficult for criminals to get drugs into prisons. Stewart is focusing on 10 of the worst-performing prisons, including Wormwood Scrubs, Leeds and Nottingham, which he dubs his “ 10-prison project”. They have been given an extra budget of £40m to improve safety and tackle drug-taking.

    Related: Jail terms of six months or less could be scrapped, prisons minister suggests

    Related: How sport in prison could stop reoffending | Rosie Meek

    Related: Prison praised for installing photobooth for inmates and visitors

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  • Tue, 22 Jan 2019 00:01:04 +0000: HMP Bedford inmate caught rats in his cell during inspection visit - Prisons and probation | The Guardian

    Vermin infestation at prison one of many problems cited in damning report last year

    An inmate at a jail that was subject to urgent measures was witnessed catching and killing rats in his cell during an inspection, it has emerged.

    The chief inspector of prisons, Peter Clarke, issued an urgent notification protocol – the most severe course of action at his disposal – over HMP Bedford last year.

    Related: Jail terms of six months or less could be scrapped, prisons minister suggests

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  • Mon, 21 Jan 2019 14:39:19 +0000: Monitoring of abuse claims at children's prison 'ineffective' - Prisons and probation | The Guardian

    Review criticises system put in place after alleged abuse by staff at Medway secure unit

    A review into the alleged abuse of children by staff at a children’s prison has found that a series of failings led to an “erratic and ineffective” monitoring of investigations into the claims.

    The serious case review criticises a contract between the Youth Justice Board (YJB) and Barnardo’s, which was acting as an independent advocate for the children, that “expressly did not allow” the charity to refer concerns about child protection to the local authority responsible for their welfare.

    Related: Former Medway inmate: 'The guard slammed my face off the ice'

    Before 2016 staff had picked on vulnerable children. “This included children who did not speak English or were comparatively young or withdrawn or had no extremal family support.”

    Ninety children were taken to A&E from Medway STC during the three-year period under review.

    The reporting of alleged crimes by members of staff against children at Medway STC was described as “stymied”.

    After the Panorama programme, 16 members of staff were arrested, nine were charged but none were convicted.

    Many children did not pursue allegations of abuse by members of staff because they had no faith in the investigating agencies.

    G4S did not hand over locally stored staff records and local supervision records when Her Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service took over the management of the centre.

    The local authority designated officer, responsible for monitoring and overseeing investigations against staff working with children, was “erratic and ineffective”, focusing on proving whether allegations could be substantiated rather than the potential risk of staff members to children.

    Medway Safeguarding Children Board’s failure to analyse allegations was “a missed opportunity for challenge”.

    The YJB’s focus on contract compliance did not “enable judgments to be focused primarily on children’s safety”.

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  • Fri, 18 Jan 2019 18:30:27 +0000: The Guardian view on Prince Philip’s crash: road safety matters to all ages | Editorial - Prisons and probation | The Guardian
    The Duke of Edinburgh’s crash in Norfolk can teach us all a lesson. Action is required to reduce the harm caused by collisions

    It is natural that the Duke of Edinburgh’s age – 97 – has been the focus of attention alongside other details of this week’s collision in Norfolk, when a Land Rover he was driving turned over after hitting a car carrying a baby and two women, one of whom was treated for a broken wrist. Most 97-year-olds, more than three-quarters of whom are women, do not drive, so Prince Philip is unusual. Since the senses of sight and hearing decline as we age, and reactions get slower, it is reasonable to wonder – as the duke’s family surely will, whatever the outcome of the police’s investigation – if now might be a good time to hang up the driving gloves.

    There have been fatal crashes in which age-related conditions were a factor. The charity Brake has called for older drivers to take annual eye tests, while the parents of Poppy-Arabella Clarke, who was three when she was killed by a pensioner who had been told to stop driving, want doctors to report people unfit to drive to the DVLA. A campaign following another fatal crash led to police being given more power to revoke licences. But while such cases exist, the evidence does not support the idea that older drivers are in general more dangerous than other drivers. On the contrary, young male drivers were found by one study to be four times as likely to crash as the over-70s (5.3 million of whom hold licences).

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  • Fri, 18 Jan 2019 18:25:27 +0000: The Guardian view of crank arguments: such talk costs lives | Editorial - Prisons and probation | The Guardian
    The way we live our lives is often the result of decisions reached irrationally – and they are killing people. Time to make different choices

    In this year’s gallery of human pestilence, the World Health Organization highlights familiar characters: influenza, an infectious disease with pandemic potential; the deadly and contagious Ebola; a HIV epidemic that claims nearly a million lives every year.

    Yet among the major threats were anti-vaxxers, who refuse to vaccinate even when vaccines are available, and air pollution, which kills 7 million people prematurely every year. These are man-made public health dangers, in the sense that they are products of the choices that we have made, often irrationally. In the case of anti-vaxxers, we see crank arguments driving out sober ones, the appalling upshot of which is a resurgence of measles in countries that were on the verge of eradicating it. A lack of trust in doctors, encouraged by our era’s anti-government politics, has not helped. Society needs to drain support from the counter-intelligentsia and stem the flow of cash into its front organisations. With air pollution, vested interests make dubious arguments to forestall radical action on tackling dirty air despite early deaths. This week the UK government claimed it would set demanding targets to clean up our atmosphere, but there’s little detail on how these will be enforced.

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