Former HMP Parc employees say they felt unsafe and one said they weren't searched in 10 years

  • ITV Wales journalist Kate Lewis reports

ITV Wales have been told by former staff members at Parc Prison in Bridgend that they felt unsafe while working there because of low levels of staffing.

Steven Williams was a Prison Officer at Parc for four years before quitting in March. He says he left because of a "deterioration of prisoners" and "deterioration of staff".

"When you raised the questions of what we are going to do about it there was nothing coming forward. There is staff there doing 24 hour shifts because of the lack of staff to run the facility."

We heard from others who also said 24 hour working and not enough staff for the number of prisoners are a problem. 

He says Parc operates a staffing ratio of 33 prisoners to one prison officers- the minimum level set by the Ministry of Justice, but a number far greater than in Government run jails like Cardiff or Swansea.

"I would say it's unsafe and I'd say it's not providing what it should be providing." said Steven.

"They haven't got enough staff there to run the jail safely." It follows nine sudden deaths in the Prison since the end of February.

South Wales Police has confirmed that four of these deaths involved drugs.

Steven says he's surprised there's not been more deaths.

"I think there'd be a lot more and I'd be honest with you if it wasn't for the prison officers and healthcare staff front line there probably would be a lot more because the work they do is phenomenal based on the resources they have.

"But again prior to the latest nine deaths, I remember submitting a whistleblowing. I think it was in December and I clearly stated within that how many deaths will it take within Parc before seniors take note? Nothing has changed."

He says he raised concerns about welfare of staff and prisoners, but they fell on deaf ears.

"I attended a unit, there was a horrific smell coming from a certain cell.

"I just approached it, had a look and noticed a person inside, I had a good rapport with him so had no concerns and opened the door and asked what's going on.

"He'd been there living in an inch of dirty water, soiled water and when I asked the prisoners how long this has been going on possibly 10 days they reckon. Now in between it has been cleaned probably but the conditions still continue.

"I raised the question of what are we going to do and basically told we'll deal with him later, get the rest of the prisoners out for their social time and I just came away from there that day thinking that's not just me, I'm better than that.

"I didn't sign up for this and yet I've probably seen a lot more traumatic things there but that was the tipping point for me, I just thought it's no longer the job I want it to be and after that I submitted my resignation in."

Last week the UK Prisons Minister acknowledged there were some challenges around security and recruiting experienced staff at HMP Parc but rejected calls for the Government to take over saying the prison is being "well-run".

ITV Wales have spoken to several former workers at Parc - some directly employed by G4S, others who regularly visited the prison as agency or support staff.

They all questioned the security and searching arrangements there. 

One told us in 10 years of working in Parc, they were never searched.

She said she thought it would be "quite easy" to bring contraband into the prison "because of lack of security."

She said at times the lack of staff made her fear for her own safety.

"There was never any radios available for us so we could be in any part of the prison without supervision of officers or whatever. You know, I've worked in other prisons and not felt the way I've felt in Parc. We got to the stage where we were going in as twos because we didn't have the reliability of the officer staff to help us."

Another former worker told us "every day is just a challenge to get your job done safely.

"Because of staff shortages and we haven't got the right equipment to keep ourselves safe. The turnover of staff is huge.

"Nobody cared about our safety.

"The prisoners run the jail, not the staff. People are at risk going in there whether you're an inmate or staff. 

"I suffered with anxiety and panic attacks. I never felt this way going into other prisons like Cardiff or Swansea, it only would happen as I was going into Parc. I ended up having to have counselling and go on medication."

We put all of these accounts to G4S who are the private firm operating the prison. Responding on safety and staffing, they say it is their priority. They added the staff to prisoner ratio is in accordance with Prison and Probation Service requirements, as is the allocation of radio equipment. 

A strategy to drive recruitment and retention is in place. 

G4S strongly refutes claims that staff are asked to work 24 hour shifts. 

When we put the security concerns to the organisation, we were told that the organisation has a zero-tolerance approach towards drugs and uses a range of tactics to root them out and prevent them coming into the prison. That includes random and intelligence-led searches of prisoners, visitors and staff.

In response to Steven's story about one prisoner's cell G4S said "any prisoner with additional needs is managed with care and compassion. It is categorically untrue that the prisoner referred to was neglected. To the contrary, he was supported by a multidisciplinary team within HMP Parc."

Need help with substance misuse?

If you or someone you know is affected by the issues raised in this article, the following charities offer support:

  • Action of Addiction works across all areas of treatment, research, family support and professional education - 0300 330 0659

  • Frank offers confidential advice and information about drugs, their effects and the law - 0300 123 6600

  • Narcotics Anonymous offers support for anyone who wants to stop using drugs - 0300 999 1212

  • Release offers free and confidential advice about drugs and the law on its helpline on 020 7324 2989 or email: ask@release.org.uk

  • We Are With You supports people with drug, alcohol or mental health problems, and their friends and family

  • The UK Addiction Treatment Group offers free online information and guidance for prescription drug addiction as well as a 24/7 confidential helpline on 0808 274 8029.

  • You can also discuss addiction issues with your GP or call 999 in an emergency

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Worried about mental health?


  • Samaritans operates a 24-hour service available every day of the year, by calling 116 123. If you prefer to write down how you’re feeling, or if you’re worried about being overheard on the phone, you can email Samaritans at jo@samaritans.org

  • Papyrus offers support for children and young people under the age of 35 over the phone on 0800 068 41 41 between 9am and midnight every day of the year. If you would rather text you can do so on 07786 209697 or send an email to pat@papyrus-uk.org

  • Mind also offers mental health support between 9am and 6pm, Monday to Friday. You can call them on 0300 123 3393 or text them on 86463. There is also lots of information available on their website.

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