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Inmates hospitalised seven times in six months after taking banned legal highs

The report found drug testing did not reveal the banned legal highs Credit: PA

Inmates at Bristol prison were admitted to hospital seven times over six-months after taking banned legal high Spice, it has been revealed.

A report by HM Inspectorate of Prisons found that a mandatory drug testing regime did not detect Spice, a synthetic drug used to imitate the effects of cannabis.

It is believed to have become one of the main drugs of choice inside the jail.

The Inspectorate praised Bristol Prison for making considerable progress but says significant concerns still remain.

They found the most serious issue identified at the prison was the level of violence, which was much higher than in similar prisons.

The availability of legal highs such as Spice was a problem, as found elsewhere in the prison system. In the last six months there has been seven Spice-related emergency admissions to hospital.

– HM Inspectorate of Prisons

Dorset Police Commissioner's dismay at prison closure

I am disappointed and dismayed with the Justice Secretary’s decision to close HMP Dorchester. Only six weeks ago, we welcomed the decision to designate HMP Dorchester as a resettlement prison for the county’s offenders. It would have allowed us to support the rehabilitation of offenders back into the local community and to reduce incidents of reoffending.

I am concerned that this decision will have a negative impact on the county’s ability to proactively work with partners to rehabilitate offenders. It will also impact on future opportunities in restorative justice which provides insight to offenders on the impact of their crime whilst giving control back to victims.

I will be writing to the Justice Secretary Chris Grayling to express my dismay at his decision and will be lobbying the government for clarity around future resettlement arrangements for Dorset in light of this decision."

– Martyn Underhill, Dorset Police & Crime Commissioner

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Work to close prison will begin 'immediately'

The Ministry of Justice said work to close HMP Dorchester will begin immediately and it is expected to shut close at the end of the year.

Everything will be done to avoid compulsory redundancies and our intention is for all staff to be redeployed to alternative roles in the prison estate or, if necessary, offered the opportunity to leave on voluntary terms.

Offenders housed at Dorchester will be moved to other suitable prison accommodation.

Decision to shut prison 'not taken lightly'

This decision was not taken lightly and is in no way a reflection of the hard work and commitment of staff, nor of the prison’s performance.

However, we cannot shy away from the fact that funds are limited and we need to make sure we are running prisons as efficiently as we can to maximise value for the taxpayer.

This will clearly be a difficult time for everyone involved and we will do all we can to offer support and ensure the prison continues to operate safely and securely in the run-up to closure.”

– Prisons Minister Jeremy Wright

Dorchester prison to shut

Dorchester Prison. Credit: Chris Ison/PA

The Ministry of Justice has announced the closure of Dorchester Prison.

It is part of the Government's prison modernisation programme to replace old and outdated estates.

A planned new 2,000 place prison will be built in Wrexham.

A feasibility study has started on a second large prison to be constructed in the South East of England.

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SW prisons in shake-up

Seven jails in the South West are included in proposals to become 'resettlement prisons'.

The plans, which are being revealed by the Justice Secretary Chris Grayling on Thursday, will see the majority of offenders released from prisons in, or close to, the area in which they live.

  • Bristol
  • Leyhill in Gloucestershire
  • Exeter
  • Channings Wood in Newton Abbot
  • Guys Marsh in Dorset
  • Portland
  • Dorchester

Prisons shake-up plans are 'political'

While the Ministry of Justice focus on rehabilitation is welcome, today's announcement reflects the fact that these reforms are designed to meet political and ideological goals - not to improve public safety or deliver better value for the taxpayer.

The Government's efforts to ensure the vast majority of prisoners are released into their local area seem rooted in good intentions.

But attempting to shoehorn overcrowded jails into arbitrarily-drawn and oversized contract areas, simply to ease the privatisation process, will create serious problems unless we reduce the number of people our prisons are holding."

– ANDREW NEILSON, DIRECTOR OF CAMPAIGNS, HOWARD LEAGUE FOR PENAL REFORM

Prisons shake-up: Prison Reform Trust

Resettlement and rehabilitation do matter but until and unless you reserve prison for serious and violent offenders, you cannot hope to cut sky-high re-offending rates or maintain safe and decent regimes.

Given the pace and scale of change, ministers focused on developing the justice market could easily lose sight of the solutions that lie outside of prison bars in health, housing and employment."

– JULIET LYON, DIRECTOR OF THE PRISON REFORM TRUST
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