Drugs and violence alert at Doncaster jail

Moorland Prison, Doncaster
Moorland Prison, Doncaster

Major concerns have been raised over new types of psychoactive drugs in a Doncaster jail following its latest inspection.

Peter Clarke, Chief Inspector of Prisons, warned the availability of drugs which have been commonly known as ‘legal highs’, which cannot now legally sold following the introduction of new laws, was threatening to undermine recent progress at Moorland Prison, said. Today he published the report of an unannounced inspection of the South Yorkshire resettlement prison.

His report follows an unannounced inspection of the resettlement prison, near Hatfield Woodhouse.

The jail holds around 1,000 prisoners, of whom around 250 are foreign national offenders and 340 are sex offenders.

The prison is in the process of adapting to its new role as a resettlement prison for the area. The recent history of the prison has been one of uncertainty and disruption and at one point the prison had been earmarked for privatisation.

Inspectors the threat posed to the stability of the prison by ‘new psychoactive substance’s was severe and despite some positive initiatives, the situation appeared to be deteriorating and needed to be addressed.

They also found 48 per cent of prisoners now say it is easy to get drugs at Moorland compared to 28 per cent at the last inspection.

the number of violent incidents, fights and assaults had increased since the last inspection in 2012 and levels were also higher than at similar prisons, and almost one in five prisoners surveyed said they felt unsafe at the time of the inspection.

The report also warned staff often struggled with the many demands made of them and work on diversity was weak and had been undermined by chronic understaffing in the area.

The overall strategic approach to resettlement lacked focus and too much of the work of the offender management unit was process-driven.

But care for prisoners at risk of suicide or self-harm was generally good, there had been improvements in the management and availability of work, training and education, and the prison had successfully introduced a sex offender treatment programme in response to being re-roled as a national resource for holding sex offenders.

Mr Clarke said: “There are real opportunities at Moorland to make progress, but the issues of NPS and inefficiencies in routine transactions that have such a negative impact on prisoners’ experiences need to be addressed. In particular, there is a real opportunity to make progress in embracing the prison’s new role as a resettlement prison, and in delivering treatment programmes for sex offenders. We saw evidence that many staff wanted to build constructive relationships with prisoners and to address the challenges facing Moorland. It will be the task of a focused and visible leadership team to inspire the staff to grasp the opportunities provided by the new roles that Moorland has assumed.”

Michael Spurr, chief executive of the National Offender Management Service, said: “I am pleased that the inspector has highlighted the real progress being made at Moorland in purposeful activity as well as successfully introducing and managing sex offenders. The prison is currently going through a challenging time of transitioning to its new role as a resettlement prison and is working to ensure prisoners are prepared for release.

“We are not complacent about safety and there is clearly more work to do to address levels of violence and tackle increasing availability of NPS at the prison. The Governor and staff have put measures in place to reduce the rise in drugs and I am confident the team will continue to build on the firm foundations in place to take this work forward.”