An inmate at troubled Birmingham Prison has spoken of his relief that the Government has stepped in to take control of the beleaguered jail from private security firm, G4S.
He has been an inmate at the prison on 10 different occasions over the last 20 years and witnessed first-hand its spiral out of control.
The worst incident at the prison was in 2016 when there was a riot. Inmates stole keys from an officer then went around, releasing 500 inmates from their cells.
Since that disorder – the worst since the Strangeways riot in 1990 – the problems have continued and the situation has deteriorated further.
He said: ‘Prisoners would take the piss out of the officers about the riot, and since the riot it was like the prisoners have got the upper hand, a few of the officers got a real kicking, and it is like they cannot not be bothered or could not find the strength to enforce any kind of order.
‘The riot was mental, what so many people don’t know is that hundreds of us almost broke out the jail, imagine someone seeing us lot running down Dudley Road?
‘It has always been a shit prison, but being away from it for six months and then going back in I see the deterioration, there is shit everywhere on the landings, flies, cockroaches and the smell is rank when it gets hot.’
He added: ‘A lot of prisoners do not leave their cells because it is not safe. People are eating their dinner in their cells which stink anyway. It was just disgusting.’
Another problem is that inmates have easy access to mobile phones – known inside as ‘bashers’ – that they use without fear of reprisals.
He told metro: ‘Prisoners have phones, so arguments from the outside are being carried on inside, with people getting paid to attack other prisoners.
‘I used to go into prison and get clean [from heroin] now the drug services are a joke, and they are also letting people out even if they have no fixed address to go to, when before housing services would be involved.
‘Prisoners just blatantly speak on their bashers in front of the screws and nothing gets done.’
But now the inmate, who is in his 40s, says that spice is a major problem – not just for people becoming hooked.
He said: ‘Everyone seems to be selling or taking spice, prisoners trade it openly for toiletries.
‘And there is more violence because of people are running up debts buying spice and then are unable to pay back money on time and then get a beating.’
Speaking about yesterday’s Government take-over of the prison announced by prisons minister Rory Stewart, the prisoner said that there has already been a visible change within the prison.
He estimates that 300 violent criminals have been sent to other jails and there are now ‘proper prison officers’ patrolling the wings.
He said: ‘I am relieved something finally has been done, the last few weeks have been mental, it is like all the officers just gave up.
‘The statistics say assaults have gone up but that is not even the half of it. The majority of assaults between prisoners do not get reported and they are happening every day.’
HMP Birmingham, formerly known as Winson Green, is a category B prison.
It was taken over by G4S in 2011 and they are expected to regain control once the Prison Service has restored order.
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