Monday, 24 July 2017

The Story Will Out

It's Monday morning and I bet high up on the agenda of the MoJ media management meeting down in London is how to keep a lid on information in the age of blogging.

Basically, the civil servants who get paid handsomely to make sure we don't find out what happens in our prisons are pretty pissed-off because yet again blogger Alex Cavendish got the story out about the the violent incident at HMYOI Aylesbury last Friday. Like many others, I watched the story develop not via the BBC or Sky rolling news channels, but via his twitter feed. This from his blog post:-

YOI Aylesbury: The Inside Story

Although it is common knowledge that our prison system is in deep crisis, the actual details of what is going on behind prison walls are often hidden from public view. Appalling events take place, but these stories are rarely told because of the suffocating blanket of official secrecy from the Ministry of Justice (MOJ) that has come to envelop our jails like a thick mist. Transparency is a pipe dream.

Yesterday (Friday July 21) there was a serious incident of violence at HM YOI Aylesbury. We have learned this not by reading about it in the local or national newspapers or from seeing it on the television news, but only because reliable, professional sources inside the system have passed on the details to a private blogger who has an active interest in the prison crisis. That’s why the news was broken on my Twitter account this afternoon and why you are reading about the incident on this blog.

In a nutshell, a group of over 30 young inmates located on one wing became involved in a mass brawl yesterday morning. Rather than rewriting one of the accounts I’ve received, I’ll simply let the person (who has to remain anonymous for obvious reasons) tell the story for themselves, with their permission. This may be the only accurate account of this incident you’ll ever read, so it’s important the truth is told.

The incident yesterday was horrific. The wing has been brewing for a while. The worst, most difficult wing is being run by new officers. We are 30 staff down and now will be even more.

The wing is over run with problems of gangs and gang violence. There has been a big rise in weapons and drugs in the jail. The governors were warned. The wing in question houses most gangs in the jail on one wing.

A mass brawl broke out yesterday morning, calling on all officers available lots of times. We didn't have the staff. Prisoners were attacking each other with weapons – and staff.

Staff were trying to save their lives and got battered. Some were seriously injured. Another officer was on the landing unconscious. We had ambulances and fire service in trying to help alongside our healthcare department. If anything had happened elsewhere in the jail we wouldn't have been able to cope.

Aylesbury is at breaking point. Eleven officers had to go to hospital and others are injured.

I'm so angry by what has happened to be honest! The government do nothing. The public should know what really happens! I have never seen anything as bad as this in the years that I have worked there. Members of staff are in danger.

I enjoy my job and enjoy working with the lads, but yesterday was different. They had no fear and they didn't care. The staff tried their best and they worked incredibly hard. They put their lives on the line to save the lads’ lives when they seemed to just want to kill each other!

To be fair our number one governor is good and she's trying hard but she's battling against a broken system. We have so many new officers that work hard but they are so young and they just aren't getting the support from their seniors. Older members of staff are burnt out.

We have prisoners who are over 22 stuck in the jail because we barely have any offender supervisors to do the work and no adult jails will take our lads. The wings are rife with spice, cannabis, steroids and weapons.

And we have had a few near miss suicides recently, alongside a serious fight earlier in the year in which a brick was used to smash a lad’s skull in. I don't understand how the MOJ can sit there and justify what they do.

The staff try hard but what's three new staff on a wing of 70 lads mainly gang members? It's unsafe. I know staff are not eating and throwing up after work because they are so anxious to go to work.

I’m dreading going to work, having to try and help the people that have hurt my friends. What worries me now is some of the lads involved I would have put money on them being decent guys. They weren't the 'typical' disruptive prisoners.

So now the truth is out there. It can no longer be covered up by the bureaucrats and press officers down in at the MOJ in Petty France.


It's fairly clear to all that the MoJ are no longer able to set the news agenda to suit their interests and that without bloggers like Alex, we would never have heard about this incident. This from the BBC website:- 

Aylesbury YOI prison officers hurt in 'brawl'

Seven prison officers and one prisoner were taken to hospital after "disorder" at a young offender institution, police have said. It happened at HM YOI Aylesbury in Buckinghamshire on Friday morning, Thames Valley Police said. An online prison blog said 30 inmates took part in the "mass brawl".

Police said the injured people had since been released from hospital. The Prison Service said it was investigating the incident with police. Officers were called to "a report of disorder" at the young offender institution in Bierton Road at about 11:00 BST, but "officer deployment was not required at the incident", a spokeswoman said.

Prison UK blog

"Seven prison officers and one prisoner were taken to hospital for treatment." The incident came to light in an online blog on Prison UK. Author Alex Cavendish, a former prisoner, said he was passed the information via "reliable, professional sources inside the system".

"A mass brawl broke out yesterday morning... Prisoners were attacking each other with weapons - and staff," the informant said. He described the incident as "horrific".

Trouble 'brewing'

"Staff were trying to save their lives and got battered. Some were seriously injured. Another officer was on the landing unconscious. We had ambulances and fire service in, trying to help alongside our healthcare department. The wing has been brewing for a while," he added.

A Prison Service Spokesman confirmed that "an incident involving a number of prisoners took place on Friday 21 July". We do not tolerate violence against our hard-working staff. Where incidents like this occur, we will always work closely with the police to push for the strongest possible punishment," he added. The incident is being jointly investigated by the Prison Service and Thames Valley Police.


  1. Leaves a lump in my throat when I read of the MoJ's concern for 'hard-working staff'. ( 'Hard-working' is such a favoured political phrase to describe those who are under-rewarded). The MoJ will be tough on rioters as if these outbreaks of disorder can be deterred without dealing with the well-established underlying causes. Pity that bonuses are not linked to good order and discipline.


    2. 30 inmates, believed to be under the influence of 'prison hooch', staged the violent protest at HMP Hewell on Saturday

      A VIOLENT protest involving 30 inmates was staged at Hewell prison over the weekend, in response to a new smoking ban, which comes into effect today (July 24).

      Specialist 'Tornado squads', equipped to deal with riots, were drafted in to the Hewell Lane jail on Saturday night (July 22), after trouble broke out on one of the wings.

      The Prison Service said a handful of prisoners were refusing to follow prison officers' orders and had been attempting to cause damage to the wing.

      From around 7.30pm, unmarked vans using blue lights and sirens started arriving at the category B facility.

      A steady stream of vans and minibuses was seen arriving at the jail's front entrance, carrying and unloading Tornado squads carrying backpacks filled with equipment.

      Men shouting and swearing, as well as banging and dogs' barking, could be clearly heard from the street well into the evening.

      Witnesses described hearing several loud quickfire bangs, thought to be distraction grenades, as the disorder continued.

      These were greeted by loud shouts, thought to be coming from inside the affected wing, followed finally by silence just before midnight.

      The Prison Officers Association has since confirmed that one member of prison staff was taken to hospital during the incident, and that inmates are believed to have been under the influence of 'prison hooch'.

      Spokesman Jackie Marshall said: "Prison officials have said that staff had raised concerns with management but that the risk wasn't taken seriously until it was too late. Management didn't notice the warning signs. There were two incidents on that unit in the last week alone."

      It is believed a new smoking ban, which came into effect this week, had sparked the disturbance.

      "The Prison Service as a whole is becoming smoke free," Ms Marshall added. "Second hand smoke is a serious danger to staff. All sorts of tests have been carried out and this ban is a result of these findings."

      HMP Hewell is now understood to be under the control of security teams, while a Prison Service spokesman said the offenders involved 'will be punished and face spending extra time behind bars'.

      The main Hewell site, which houses about 1,000 inmates - some of whom are category A remand prisoners - is surrounded by farmland.

      In an announced inspection report published in January, Hewell was described as "a prison with many challenges and areas of serious concern".

      Peter Clarke, chief inspector of prisons, said the "main concerns at the closed site were regarding issues of safety and respect".

      He said levels of violence were "far too high", communal areas "dirty" and many cells over-crowded, with some described as "filthy".

      Almost two thirds (60 per cent) had told the inspection team it was "easy" to get hold of drugs inside.

      Inspectors also found levels of self-harm had increased, a quarter of prisoners "felt unsafe".

  2. The story will also out that working links are going under. When even their employability staff and of course previous director are abandoning ship that is a clue to what is coming. It cannot go on. Napo know it and crc managers know it. There is nothing left.the MOJ have failed miserably and too ashamed to admit it. We are leaderless in the working links Wales and SW empire, have been for somw time now. Only a few cockroaches scuttling about and eating the last remaining detritus. Our service users are similarly afflicted. Benefits pulled, mental health services down the drain, GP's refuse to see them, housing non existant, dead end exploitation for jobs...what a wonderful society this government have created when men choose to re-offend and go to prison rather than try to cope homeless and destitute on the outside. No wonder crime rates are escalating when corrupt companies like working links are left holding some of the most vulnerable yet also risky individuals in the country. I don't know what the alternative is if we cannot re-unite as napo have pointed out but one day those of us at working links will arrive at work to find that working links have basically either folded completely or ran off and left us to our fate. So we better get our heads together and figure out how the hell we are going to manage and whonis going to oversee the mess and try to put it right.

    1. I'm always cheered up by the term"leaderless ", it makes me think we can now finally get down to business . No one standing in our way trying to trip us up with their irrelevant distractions . But yes, we do want to get paid.

  3. @ 20:21

    I've not long read the following article which seems at very long odds with your appraisal of WLs.
    I think however you may be far more accurate then what it says here.


    1. It's basically a press release not journalism as we know it - but here it is for the record:-

      Finding right links to get back to work

      North Swindon MP Justin Tomlinson visited employability experts at Working Links as part of Employability Day.

      Mr Tomlinson joined local officials at Working Links’ Swindon office on Friday, July 14 as the organisation showcased its work to support more than 1,500 of Wiltshire’s unemployed people on their journey towards work.

      The event featured advice and guidance for people wanting to return to work and information on Working Links’ programmes of support.

      In Swindon, it delivers the Links to Work programme funded by the European Social Fund and Department for Work and Pensions.

      It also runs a programme in association with Wiltshire College aimed at upskilling people ready for the workplace.

      Health and wellbeing workshops also took place, supporting people who are faced with health-related barriers to work and helping them to cope with change while improving self-confidence and awareness.

      The event was one of 80 Employability Day events across Britain.

      Working Links performance manager Helen Saunders said: “We had a great turnout at the event and it was great to show Justin the fantastic work we are doing to support people in our community.”

  4. Getafix..that article made me laugh. Sadly if the Swindon advertiser swallow their crap it is because they are not exactly investigative journalists! Working links basically speak with forked tongue. They have zero integrity and remind me of those sad little vermin sales people who repeat their stock phrases and actually think we are fooled.they are repulsive hook-worms feeding on a starved intestine. When the last bit of food disappears out of the crc arsehole they will shed away and be expelled and look for another host to parasitise! Vile, the lot of them.

  5. I'm just warn out with it all. I surely cannot be the only one left in this boat can I? I have invested into this career path for 15 years now and have never seen it so bad. I am sick to the back teeth of political spin when all I want to do is help those that have offended in my community move onto better things - that is it. Somewhere this has all been lost in the corporate world we live in now where money means more. I'm desperate to leave, but I don't even have the energy to apply for new jobs as am so warn out dealing with politics, negativity with offenders and managers towing the party line. Its not what I joined for.

    1. Thanks for posting Anon at 01.44 I hope you find respite and colleagues for mutual support. I am fortunate to have retired in 2003, when even then former colleagues said over the next few years, the job is not how you knew it and things will probably get worse.

      Sadly it is mostly an ignorant Parliament that has allowed the debacle and a disengaged electorate, distracted by the Media focus on so called Celebrities and political party Yahboo who have not helped.