Hundreds of inmates taken out of HMP Birmingham after riot

Category-B Birmingham prison has been run by G4S since 2011. Picture: AFP/Getty Images

Category-B Birmingham prison has been run by G4S since 2011. Picture: AFP/Getty Images

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Some 240 prisoners were being moved out of HMP Birmingham yesterday after a riot at one of the country’s biggest jails.

Hundreds of inmates were caught up in the disorder and four wings at the privately run jail were damaged during the disturbances on Friday, which lasted for more than 12 hours.

Riot squads were deployed to the category-B prison run by G4S after reports of prisoners setting fire to stairwells and destroying paper records.

A Ministry of Justice spokeswoman said: “Two hundred and forty prisoners are being transferred out of HMP Birmingham following a serious disturbance.

“The prison remains calm and ordered with additional staff on site to offer support. The Prison Service will continue to work closely with G4S to manage the prison safely over the coming days.

“A full assessment of the damage is under way. Initial reports indicate that two wings suffered superficial damage, with more serious damage to a further two wings.

“A limited regime is being offered to those who were not involved in the disturbance and staff continue to work closely with West Midlands Police. A thorough investigation into the disturbance is under way.”

The city centre jail, formerly known as Winson Green, can hold up to 1,450 inmates, but it is understood around 260 prisoners were caught up in the incident.

Specially trained prison guards, known as “Tornado” squads, from other parts of the country were backed up by about 25 riot police as they moved into the facility late on Friday.

One man, believed to be in his 20s, was taken to hospital with a facial injury as well as cuts and bruises. No prison staff were injured.

Rodger Lawrence, chairman of the Birmingham Prison independent monitoring board, said its last report to the government had recommended a review of the number of staff needed for the contract.

It followed comments from Mike Rolfe, national chairman of the Prison Officers’ Association, who previously protested over safety concerns and told BBC Radio 4’s The World Tonight that more than 30 staff had left the jail in recent weeks.

Lawrence told the BBC: “We believe things have significantly changed since the contract was drawn up, and they do actually need more staff in prisons.”

He said the violence did not “come as a complete shock”.

Michael Spurr, chief executive of the National Offender Management Service, said gang-related violence and disorder fuelled by drugs had “really changed the dynamic” in prisons but promised to “turn it around”.

G4S has run the prison since 2011 when it became the first public-sector jail to be privatised.

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