Sources from within the prisoners held at HMP Ashwell in the lead up to the uprising that began in the early hours of Saturday 11th April indicate that the incident was as a direct result of overcrowding and the use of the IEP scheme as a form of punishment.

"The issue at Ashwell was sparked by the threats around Earned Privilege Scheme (IEPs) which officers seemingly are liberally using as a punishment for all sorts of misdemeanors in a way that was never intended by the introduction of the controversial IEPs." (Source withheld)

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HMP & YOI Parc, a Category B local training prison run by G4S, has been criticised by the HM Inspector of Prisons, following an unannounced inspection, for failing to carry out its role as a training prison. The official report said there were only 70 education and 289 work places for 1,200 male prisoners at the private jail, resulting in the majority being banged up all day.

Anne Owers went even further and said, "Parc is Wales' only generic training prison and at present it is unequipped to perform that role. Welsh prisoners therefore either need to leave Wales, or to miss out on the education and training opportunities they need in order to increase their life chances outside prison."

This follows an announced inspection in January 2006 that found among others things that: "At the time of our visit 199 prisoners were unemployed. Although most prisoners were allocated to work places, for many there was in fact no work. On one morning of the inspection, only 6 out of the 69 prisoners in workshops were actually working. Some of the work was repetitive and tedious, and offered little skills training."

"The claim made to inspectors that this nevertheless instilled a ‘work ethic’ was scarcely credible. There was little work skills training, and the quality of education was poor – this was particularly unacceptable for the prison’s juvenile population."

There was also "insufficient work and skills training, and delivery of education, particularly to juveniles, was weak. Prisoners’ time out of cell met contractual arrangements, but was inaccurately recorded, and there was insufficient activity to occupy them."



It has just been announced that Ben Gunn has taken over from John Hirst as the General Secretary of the Association of Prisoners (AoP). The AoP is an ad-hoc association of serving prisoners originally formed in 2000. After a period of inactivity, recent moves by a number of prisoners has seen its reemergence and the AoP has decided to take on the government over the issue of prisoners' voting rights. Along with the voting issue, Ben has also pledged to take on the issue of prison labour in the area of Contract Services.




Many prisoners are only now feeling the full force of the recent change in their prison canteen supplier. In the change-over period Aramark, as everyone expected, "ramped up their prices to a stupid level", to quote one prisoner, and Booker/DHL have followed suit.

On top of that, Booker/DHL have almost halved the list of items that were previously available, with a loss of some 350 items has been widely reported, many of them being particularly popular amongst the customer base. One item some of the older members of the prison population are particularly rankled about losing is their denture fixative! As the same prisoner said, this loss "has led to some mumbling. It would be screams but their teeth fell out..."

However, this is not a laughing matter, it is merely another illustration of the standard lack of consideration of prisoners' needs shown by canteen suppliers that they have long been resigned to.



We understand that the long mooted review of SPS Industries by Paula Arnold, ex-Deputy Head of Industries, has been completed and has been handed over to the SPS Board for consideration.

Amongst the items that we are told are covered is the fact that there is something like £400,000 of stock of SPS Industries' Athol garden furniture stock crammed into every available space at the Fauldhouse depot. It appears that whilst new stock has arrived, there has hardly been any stock leaving via sales and this has been the case well before the 'credit crunch' arrived. All this stock has been made at the Scottish tax payers' expense and some of it has been there for so long (we are told that a number of stock lines have not sold in years) that some of it is rotting. No wonder the annual income of the Industries department has plummeted in recent years [see] and, as we come to the end of the current financial year, this situation will again make a large dent in the Scottish Prison Service's annual returns

It also appears that the number is up for the very same Fauldhouse depot and its staff. The place is just too costly to remain a viable option, especially if we see the end of Industries as a whole.

As a reward for clutching the poisoned chalice of the review, with the inevitable task of recommending the redundancy of some of the people that she has worked with for years, Paula Arnold has just moved to the position of Operations Manager at HMP Glenochil despite her preferred option of Deputy Governor at HMP & YOI Corton Vale (more office politics we understand).

We await the publishing of the review with batted breath and can only hope that it will be the final nail in the coffin of SPS Industries and that Scottish prisoners will end up with proper training programs that will equip them with the sort of useful skills that will get them a decent job on the outside, rather than some McJob whilst being exploited for profit by SPS Industries and Contract Services.



Following the takeover of canteen supplies in England and Wales by Booker & DHL announced at the end of last year, there are already complaints about the price rises revealed in their first canteen sheet recently issued to prisoners (see the January 2009 issue of Inside Time for one such letter entitled "Victims of a Monopoly").

It would also appear that the announcement of the DHL and Booker takeover itself was a little premature as we have learnt that Aramark continue to supply canteen goods in some parts of the country, such as Kent. Worse still from the prisoners' point of view is the announcement by Aramark, against the background of the massive price war that has broken out amongst the major supermarket chains, that they will also be increasing their prices this month (January 2009).

Amongst the items highlighted in the Inside Time letter were tins of tuna chunks up from 87p to £1.38. Aramark's equivalent rise is from 87p to £1.49, a 71% increase. Other Aramark price rises include Heinz tomato ketchup up from £1.49 to £2.19 (47%); 500g Pasta shells up from 59p to 99p (68%) and 1kg Basmati rise up from £2 to £3.89, a 95% increase!

The Prison Service claim that Aramark prices (and those of Booker/DHL) are regularly checked against High Street supermarkets such as Somerfields and Morrisons. However, visits to both of these supermarkets earlier this month found only 5 items that were more expensive than Aramark's 100 or so price-rise list items (we ignored all "special offers"). Most others were significantly more expensive, with essentials such as Colgate toothpaste more than 20% higher. Could it be, as has been suggested to us, that Aramark is attempting to cash in on the contract whilst they still have a chance?

On top of this, we should remember that prisoners are still earning wages based on rates that are the same as they were when the Incentives and Earned Privileges Scheme was introduced in 1995. Over that same period the RPI has increased by approx. 43%! How are they supposed to continue to afford to buy items from the prison shop under such circumstances?

If anyone has any information on THE areas of the country where Aramark are still operating, we would be glad to hear from you.



The beginning of 2009 sees SPS Industries still in limbo with the only major Contract Services customer being Speedy Hire, who are using workshops at HMP Glenochil to refurbish motorway roadwork lights. The old Airsprung Beds workshops at HMP Shotts stand empty, all the tools and machinery having returned to Wiltshire (see)

Currently, the store space previously used to hold the Airsprung bedfarmes prior to transport south is now being used to store the rapidly increasing stock of Athol garden furniture. We are told that sales of this are so low at the moment, with some items having barely moved in recent years, that the Fauldhouse warehouse is "bursting at the seams". In fact, turnover is so slow at the moment that it hardly seems possible that it could cover the wages of all the Central Stores staff.



The front page of the December 2008 issue of Inside Time carries the news that the Howard League for Penal Reform's Barbed project, the world's first social enterprise based inside a prison, is to close. An independent review carried by Professor Penny Green of King's College, London on behalf of the Howard League and released last month slates prison authorities:

“the prison authorities at Coldingley have, in reality, acted to disrupt and thwart its productive success. It took a whole year to get a telephone installed, apparently more through a toxic mixture of incompetence and risk aversion inside than any deliberate policy to obstruct. Arbitrary and unannounced withdrawal of prisoners from the Studio have repeatedly affected the business.”

Barbed currently employs six prisoners (11 in total have passed though it's doors since it began) on a starting salary at minimum wage levels of £8,880 per year for a 32 hour week, paying tax and N.I., and has more than 40 clients, including the Parole Board. But it is due to close at the end of December because changes in the core week, which has cut working hours down to 24 a week, make it financial unviable. This comes on top of the Prison Service coming to the belated decision that prisoners could not be employed by outside employers i.e. Barbed and therefore could not pay tax and N.I..

This appears to contradict both the Prison Service's own guidance on Tax and N.I. contained in PSO 4460 'Prisoners Pay' Section 2.8 - "Prisoners earning over the normal thresholds for Income Tax and National Insurance contributions are not exempted from these payments" - and also the government's policy of prison privatisation and the way in which Prison Industries' Contract Services functions. In the first, prisoners are effectively handed over lock stock and barrel to private companies to be employed for the companies' private profit in what ever way they see fit. In the second, prisoners are effectively employed in sub-contracted sweatshops for private companies in the same way as Nike and Primark employs Third World labour to produce their goods. Surely there is some form of contradiction here? Then again there are all those Category D prisoners across the UK who have day release jobs working for private companies. What about them?



The annual United Friends & Families March remembering those that have died in custody in prisons, police cells and secure psychiatric hospitals in the UK takes place on Saturday 25th October. Assemble in Trafalgar Square at 12.30pm for a silent procession along Whitehall and a noise protest outside Downing Street.



Having recently broken the news that Aramark were using Category D prisoners to pack canteen supplies at HMP Blantyre House for all the Kent prisons, we now understand it has just been announced in the current issue of Inside Time that DHL and Booker Direct are taking over the running of all prison shops as of this month [Oct 2008]. DHL will supply the logistics support and Booker, the UK's largest cash and carry firm, will supply a range of over 750 product lines. Approximately 500 low risk prisoners will pick, pack and bag orders for other establishments as well as their own in 17 workshops run by DHL across England and Wales. DHL will also provide training for prisoners to complete NVQ qualifications in Warehousing and Logistics. No doubt DHL will also receive funding for training prisoners for what is after all low skilled work and we assume that the sort of wages paid will be on a par with those previously paid by Aramark at Blantyre House. [See: Company of the Month]



Detainees at the Campsfield House immigration prison in Oxfordshire are being "exploited for cheap labour" due to staff cuts, the Oxford and District Trades Union Council has revealed. The rejected asylum seekers, who are locked up for lengthy periods pending their deportation, are being paid £5 for six-hour shifts of cleaning and kitchen work. [taken from Corporate Watch's Latest News September 23, 2008]

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Its been interesting comparing the coverage of the loss of Prison Service data that made the headlines on 6th September with that surrounding the loss of prisoners' data on August 21st.

On 6th September it came to light that giant US data process outsourcing firm Electronic Data Systems (EDS) had mislaid a hard drive containing details of 'up to 5,000 employees' of the National Offender Management Service in England and Wales, including a number of prison staff. The loss was originally discovered in July this year but could have occurred as long ago as July 2007.

The prisoners' data consisted of the names, addresses and dates of birth of around 33,000 people in England and Wales with six or more recordable convictions in the previous 12 months on the Police National Computer. Plus the names and dates of birth, but not addresses, of 10,000 prolific and other 'priority offenders', and the names, dates of birth and, in some cases, the expected prison release dates of all 84,000 prisoners held in England and Wales. This data, contained on a memory stick, was lost by another international outsourcing firm PA Consulting, a management consultancy firm that operates in more than 35 countries.

What has been most instructive about these 2 incidents is the way the Government have responded and the way the 2 stories have been covered in the mainstream media. And we'll leave it up to you to draw your own conclusions from the facts.

When the Prison Service data story broke on the Saturday night, it was the main headline news item on BBC news and continued to be so for most of the following 24 hours. All the usual suspects were quick to pass comment on the story including, in a hurried and barely audible phone interview, Glyn Travis, the assistant secretary of the Prison Officer's Association. Needless to say, he was "absolutely dumbfounded" by the news and called it "a debacle", saying that the "union was hurt and angry" about what he alleged to be a cover-up by individuals in the Prison Service and Ministry of Justice. Jack Straw, the Justice Secretary, was also quick to release a statement saying he was "extremely concerned about this missing data" and ordering an urgent inquiry. Not to be left out, Prisons Minister David Hanson piped in saying he too was "very angry" at the loss.

On August 21st however there wasn't a peep from these august gentlemen about the loss of the prisoners' data. Instead we got the Home Secretary Jacqui Smith describing the loss as "completely unsatisfactory" and David Smith, Deputy Information Commissioner, saying "searching questions" would have to be answered about how the information was protected. To top it all, the BBC's version of the story was a lowly also-ran, headlined as "Company loses data on criminals", despite atleast 8,000 of those whose data was lost being unconvicted remand prisoners.



A new report by the right-wing think tank Policy Exchange has called for the government to fund organisations such as private companies, public sector organisations and charities to encourage them to employ prisoners on their release from prison. The report suggests that re-offending currently costs the British taxpayer more than £13 billion a year, and offenders released from jail without a job are twice as likely to commit new crimes (73% of young offenders & 65% of adults re-offend within 2 years of release). It also states that arranging employment for the 66,000 people who are released from jail in England and Wales each year could save £300 million.

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Nearly 500 prisoners have gone on hunger strike in German jails for 7 days from August 1st in solidarity with the organisation Iv.i. (Representation for the Interest of the Detainees). 'Representation of the interests of the prisoners', who are calling for the release from isolation of one of their members, Nadine Tribian. She has been held in isolation since she and a fellow prisoner made a complaint of rape against a prison guard.

In Germany it is compulsory for prisoners both to work and to pay the state for their upkeep whilst they are inside. Amongst the other demands of the hunger strike, and core demands of Iv.i. itself, are the abolition of both of these.

Iv.i. is a self-organising, delegated, nonhierarchical organisation that has long sought recognition as the legal and institutional representatives of German prisoners. As such, it has not endeared itself to the prison authorities and has suffered harassment and worse from those same authorities.

See: German prisoners bound for hunger-strike over conditions



Sunday 10th August
1:00pm to 3:00pm
HMP Styal
(nearest stations Wilmslow and Manchester Airport).

In memory of all prisoners who have died as a result of prison brutality and negligence, and in celebration of the life and work of Pauline Campbell, who died in May, after five years spent struggling for justice following the death of her daughter Sarah in HMP Styal.

Called by No More Prison.

Supported by Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism!, 325 Magazine, Brighton Anarchist Black Cross, Campaign Against Prison Slavery, MOJUK, Professor Joe Sim and others.

Enquiries/further details:

There will also be a solidarity demonstration organised by London FRFI at Holloway prison at 12 noon. For more information telephone: 020 7837 1688.