1. ITV Report

Guys Marsh prison failing 'in almost every area', say inspectors

HMP Guys Marsh has been criticised in its latest inspection. Credit: ITV News

An inspection at Her Majesty's Prison Guys Marsh in Dorset has found assaults on staff have more than tripled since 2014.

The damning report by Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Prisons found failings 'in almost every area' of the prison including high and rising levels of violence, easy access to illegal drugs and prisoners isolating themselves for their own safety.

It comes just weeks after a prisoner set his clothes alight on the roof causing a large fire on the roof of the prison.

The inspection found violence against staff had tripled. Credit: ITV News

The report released this morning details the sorry state of the prison during an inspection in December last year.

The findings included:

  • high and rising levels of violence with assaults on staff having tripled since the last inspection in 2014
  • prisoners seeking sanctuary or isolating themselves to get away from serious violence
  • assaults on prisoners had increased by about two thirds
  • violence directly linked to the use of illegal drugs
  • violence linked to high levels of debt among prisoners
  • 74% of prisoners thought illegal drugs were easily accessible
  • nearly a quarter said they had acquired a drug problem in the prison
  • the drug Spice was widely available
The windows of Guys Marsh prison. Credit: ITV News
  • three prisoners had taken their own lives since the last inspection
  • higher levels of self-harm than at other similar prisons
  • the prison was overcrowded - designed to accommodate 518 men but actually holding 543
  • communal areas and accommodation in poor condition
  • prisoners frustrated at a lack of basic amenities like bedding
  • a failure by staff to address prisoners' poor behaviour and set effective boundaries for prisoners
  • 30% of prisoners not engaged in work, training or education despite sufficient provision
  • staff shortages undermining work to help offenders progress
  • despite a high risk population about half of prisoners did not have current risk assessments
A sign to HMP Guys Marsh. Credit: ITV News

Although inspectors did find prisoners felt respected by staff and were allowed the right amount of time outside their cells, they said the state of the prison was 'very disappointing'.

The prison was described as 'in crisis' with managers and staff all but losing control at its last inspection in 2014.

And - despite the appointment of a new governor - inspectors this time found the prison had only carried out a third of their recommended improvements.

Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Prisons acknowledged the difficulties of maintaining the prison because of its remote location and stretched staff resources but said far too little had been done to address its concerns.

At its last inspection the prison was described as 'in crisis'. Credit: ITV News

Frances Crook, Chief Executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform, said:

Guys Marsh prison was given six months’ notice that inspectors were coming, and yet it was still found to be failing in almost every respect. Every warning light on the dashboard is flashing, as is the case across the prison system.

This is a dirty, overcrowded prison where men can get drugs easily but cannot get bedding. This is the third prison inspection report in six weeks to describe men being so frightened for their safety that they refuse to leave their cells."

– Frances Crook, Chief Exec of the Howard League for Penal Reform

Michael Spurr - the CEO of Her Majesty's Prison and Probation Service - said action was being taken to improve the prison:

Additional staffing and resources to tackle the problems are being provided, including an extra 18 Prison Officer posts.

A new, experienced Governor has taken charge at the prison. An improvement plan is in place and we will use the recommendations in this report to drive further progress over the coming months.”

– Michael Spurr, CEO Her Majesty's Prison and Probation Service