Prison guards seek to control HMP Swaleside disturbance

Prison guards are working to control a disturbance involving 60 inmates at HMP Swaleside.

Prisoners have taken control of a landing on a wing at the category B training prison on the Isle of Sheppey in Kent.

Prison Officers Association (POA) chairman Mike Rolfe said the extent of the disturbance was unclear but fires had been lit.

Specially trained guards known as "Tornado" squads have been deployed to Swaleside, the Prison Service said.

It added that the incident has been contained to a landing on a single wing and the rest of the prison is secure, with inmates safely locked away.

It is the fourth major disturbance at an English prison in less than two months, coming a week after hundreds of inmates rioted at Birmingham prison.

Mr Rolfe said: "There is an ongoing disturbance there (at Swaleside). Some fires have been lit, apparently, and basically we know that it’s an ongoing incident."

A Prison Service spokeswoman said: "The Prison Service is dealing with an incident involving 60 prisoners at HMP Swaleside.

"The incident is contained to one landing on A Wing. The rest of the prison is secure with all prisoners in locked in cells."

HMP Swaleside has a capacity of around 1,100 inmates serving prison terms of more than four years. It has eight wings comprised of single cells.

Swaleside was condemned by the HM Inspectorate of Prisons (HMIP) in July, which described it in a report as "dangerous", with levels of violence that were "far too high" and many incidents of a serious nature.

A survey found 69% of inmates felt unsafe at some point – a result which was significantly higher than at similar facilities.

More than half (52%) of prisoners polled said it was easy or very easy to get drugs at the prison, while 45% said the same about alcohol.

HM Inspectorate of Prisons also said the use of force was high, while the segregation unit was described as "filthy".

The A wing of the prison houses the Open Academy, a study centre with a computer suite.

At the time of the HMIP report, inspectors said it was used by 50 of the 126 prisoners on the wing, who were enrolled on open and distance learning courses.

The incident is the latest in a series of prison disturbances that have piled pressure on Justice Secretary Liz Truss.

Last week, hundreds of inmates rioted for more than 12 hours at Birmingham prison, one of the country’s biggest jails.

Some 240 prisoners were transferred from the prison but it is understood none were taken to Swaleside.

Prisoners set fires, stole keys to residential areas from a guard and one inmate was seriously injured in a major disturbance on December 16.

On November 6 about 200 inmates went on the rampage at HMP Bedford just days after a national response unit had to be brought in to control prisoners after a six-hour incident at HMP Lewes in East Sussex.