Bereaved families protest outside HMP Parc following nine sudden deaths in three months

  • ITV Wales' Gwennan Campbell reports from Bridgend.


Bereaved families have gathered outside HMP Parc in Bridgend following nine sudden deaths at the prison since the end of February.

Security firm G4S has managed the prison since it opened in 1997 and it received a 10-year contract to continue operating it in 2022.

A G4S spokesperson said that HMP Parc ‘has for a long time had a good reputation as a safe and decent prison’, according to the last inspection by the Chief Inspector of Prisons.

Frances Jones' nephew Mikey, 19, died at the prison just less than three weeks ago after struggling with addiction and had been recently recalled to prison. He took his own life.

She told ITV Wales: "Where were [the prison guards]? He was on [suicide] watch. Why was it that he was allowed to die?

"We can't stand here and say Mikey had done it to get any sort of help. We can't say that because we weren't there.

Frances Jones' nephew Mikey, 19, died at the prison just a few weeks ago. He took his own life. Credit: ITV Cymru Wales

"But what we can say is, Mikey came in to do his time after doing his crime and he came out in a black bag. And that is wrong. That is so, so wrong.

"He's been let down and so have the others who have unluckily passed here."

Frances, and many of the other protestors, are calling for G4S to lose their contract to run the prison which is set to expire in 2032.

She said: "We want justice. We want these people [G4S] out. We want the Government to come in and take back control. At least we'll know that [inmates] will have the protection they deserve."

When questioned about the HMP Parc in the House of Commons, UK Prisons Minister acknowledged there were some challenges around security and recruiting experienced staff but rejected calls for the Government to take over saying the prison is being "well-run".

The protest comes after ITV Wales heard accounts from both a current inmate and ex-staff at the facility.

Steven Williams, a Prison Officer at Parc for four years before quitting in March, told us he left because of a "deterioration of prisoners" and "deterioration of staff" and that he felt unsafe while he worked there due to low staffing levels.

Responding to safety and staffing concerns, G4S say it is their priority. They added the staff to prisoner ratio is in accordance with Prison and Probation Service requirements.

A strategy to drive recruitment and retention is in place. G4S strongly refutes claims that staff are asked to work 24 hour shifts.

Darren Williams, a current inmate, said he feels unsafe in the prison, claiming there is a lack of staff and prison officers are paid to bring in drugs and describing HMP Parc as a "war-zone".

There are nearly 2,000 inmates inside HMP Parc in Bridgend. Credit: ITV Cymru Wales

An HMP Parc spokesperson has rejected Darren Williams' claims, saying there are strategies in place to root out drugs and contraband, and health and safety is a priority.

They added: "As with every other prison in the country, we have comprehensive strategies to root out drugs and contraband.

"The vast majority of our staff are hard working and honest but we continue to work closely with the Police and HMPPS to crack down on individuals who act outside of the law."

South Wales Police has confirmed that four of the recent deaths in the prison involved drugs.

In response to today's protest, a G4S spokesperson said: "We extend our sincere condolences to the family and friends of those who have died recently at Parc. As with all deaths in custody, these are being investigated by the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman.

“The safety of staff and prisoners is our priority.

“We have a zero-tolerance policy towards drugs and use a range of tactics to tackle the ingress of drugs and reduce demand. This includes robust security measures for staff, visitors and prisoners as well as substance misuse support to those in our care.

“The vast majority of our staff are hard working and honest. As with every other prison in the country, we work closely with the Police and the HMPPS counter-corruption team to crack down on the small number who may break the rules.

“All mental health support is based on an assessment and operates in the same way as it would in the community. In line with national policy, prisoners at risk of self harm or suicide are managed by a multi-disciplinary team and have a tailored support plan.”

Worried about mental health?

MIND

Mind is a mental health charity which promotes the views and needs of people with mental health issues.

It provides advice and support to empower anyone experiencing a mental health problem, and campaigns to improve services, raise awareness and promote understanding.

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CALM

CALM, or the Campaign Against Living Miserably, runs a free and confidential helpline and webchat – open from 5pm to midnight every day, for anyone who needs to talk about life’s problems.It also supports those bereaved by suicide, through the Support After Suicide Partnership (SASP).

  • Phone their helpline: 0800 585858 (Daily, 5pm to midnight)

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PAPYRUS

For practical, confidential suicide prevention help and advice you can contact PAPYRUS HOPELINEUK on 0800 068 4141, text 07860 039967 or email pat@papyrus-uk.org

Suicide is the biggest killer of young people in the UK. PAPYRUS aims to reduce the number of young people who take their own lives by breaking down the stigma around suicide and equipping people with the skills to recognise and respond to suicidal behaviour.

HOPELINEUK is the charity’s confidential helpline service providing practical advice and support to young people with thoughts of suicide and anyone concerned about a young person who may have thoughts of suicide.

HOPELINEUK is staffed by trained professionals, offering a telephone, text and email service.

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SAMARITANS

Samaritans is an organisation offering confidential support for people experiencing feelings of distress or despair.

  • Phone 116 123 (a free 24 hour helpline)

  • Email: jo@samaritans.org

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YOUNG MINDS

YoungMinds is a resource with information on child and adolescent mental health, but also offers services for parents and professionals.

It is the UK’s leading charity fighting for children and young people's mental health, and wants to make sure all young people can get the mental health support they need, when they need it

  • YoungMinds Textline - Text YM to 85258

  • Phone Parents' helpline 0808 802 5544 (Monday to Friday, 9.30am - 4pm)

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The Martin Gallier Project

The Martin Gallier Project are a Wirral-based charity dedicated to helping individuals and families across the North West of England.

They were the UK's first Suicide Prevention, Intervention and Postvention charity. The project offers non clinical suicide interventions on the high street, with no barriers to access, waiting list or criteria.

The service is open 7 days a week 9.30am-4.30pm - lines and emails are only monitored during these hours.

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