UK: Hewell Prison the worst in Britain – Murder, suicide, blunders and escapes

15 February 2015
Reblogged from: Birmingham Mail
Written by Nick McCarthy

Redditch jail comes in for heavy criticism following catalogue of catastrophe

Campaigners have branded a crisis-hit Midland prison as one of the worst in Britain.
HMP Hewell, on the outskirts of Redditch, has been hit by rocketing death rates and chronic overcrowding.

It is the prison where evil Leo Barnes managed to hang himself last month – in the middle of his trial for the murder of helpless pensioners Cynthia Beamond and Philip Silverstone.

But that was just one of a catalogue of problems at Hewell since it was officially opened on June 25, 2008.

There have been suicides, blunders, escapes – and even a MURDER.

In fact, the Howard League for Penal Reform has recorded one murder and four suicides at Hewell in the last 12 months alone.

And the charity has revealed that Hewell was running at more than 25 per cent above its capacity in November – the same month a scathing report was published following by HM Inspector of Prisons.

The report found that the use of force at the prison was increasing, 40 per cent of cells were overcrowded, and almost one in five prisoners had developed a drug problem whilst behind bars.

Read the rest here.

Immigrant Stories: The nurse, the detention centre & the women with bruises

By Ian Dunt, Feb. 5, 2014

An occasional series of Immigrant Stories, shining a light on the people trapped in Britain’s immigration system.

“I was working in a local hospital when I saw these women come in with handcuffs on,” Susan says.

Susan is not her real name. She talks on condition of anonymity.

“I asked about it. It was clear they’d committed no crime.

“They’d been hunger striking in the corridors of the nearby detention centre. They were grabbed by the guards.

“The nursing notes said they had no injuries and were fine. When I saw them they clearly had wrist bruises which they sustained in Yarl’s Wood. There were bruises on their backs as well. They were very distressed.”

Susan’s experience left her disturbed. Why were women who had committed no crime arriving in handcuffs, bruised, under detention?

A little while later she read a newspaper report about Yarl’s Wood. Security personnel were guarding the perimeter fence against a reverend dressed as Santa trying to give gifts to the children locked up inside.

Read the rest here.

Palpable desperation: Inside the invisible world of immigration detention

Reblogged from: New Statesman, Nov. 9th 2013
By Katharine Sacks-Jones

The reports of sexual abuse at the Yarl’s Wood detention centre were sadly not much of a surprise to people who work with immigration detainees.

Recent reports of sexual abuse at Yarl’s Wood shine a small spotlight on the otherwise invisible world of immigration detention. They detail how guards preyed on isolated women, subjecting them to unwanted advances, using their positions of power to coerce them into sexual acts. Shocking yes. But sadly not much of a surprise to people who work with immigration detainees.

As a trustee of a small charity, Bail for Immigration Detainees, I visited Yarl’s Wood late last year. The desperation was palpable. One of the women I met had heavily bandaged wrists. She was on 24-hour suicide watch after one failed attempt to take her own life. She, like others I spoke to, was desperate to get out of what is little more than a prison. With 30,000 people detained per year, these women are far from rare.

Many people in detention – both men and women – are incredibly vulnerable. They are often fleeing violence and persecution. About half have claimed asylum. Some have been the victims of torture and rape.  To have faced and survived such trauma, to have undertaken a difficult journey to get away, to have left behind loved ones and the world that you know, to then reach supposed safety only to be locked up is a cruel irony. And to be detained with no release date and no time-limit must be utterly hopeless.

It is little surprise that detention is incredibly damaging. Self-harm and detention go hand in hand, with studies suggesting there are higher levels of suicide and self-harm amongst detained immigrants than amongst the prison population. The impacts on physical and mental ill health are well-documented – severe distress and depression as a result of detention are common.

Read the rest here.

Immigration removal centres or prisons?

This is from the British National Newspaper for Prisoners Inside Time:

By Charles Hanson, from insidetime issue December 2011

Charles Hanson puts the spotlight on immigration centres

Immigration removal centres or prisons?

What with over 107,300 persons being legally detained in the UK one could be forgiven for thinking that the UK is heading towards the creation of a fortress state. As of October 2011 figures showed that there are 87,700 prisoners in England and Wales, 7,900 in Scotland, 1,400 in Northern Ireland, 280 in the Channel Islands, 90 on the Isle of Man, and 1,055 patients detained in Secure Hospitals. There are another 5,000 in medium secure psychiatric units, 300 children in Secure Training Centres, 315 in Secure Children’s Homes and 3,300 in Immigration Removal Centres. For the purpose of this article I will focus on those detained in Immigration Removal Centres.

Immigration Removal Centres are holding centres for foreign nationals awaiting decisions on their failed asylum application claims or awaiting deportation following a failed application. Previously known as ‘detention centres’, the name was formally changed to ‘removal centres’ under the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002 to “reflect the part played by detention in the removal of failed asylum-seekers and others”. The power to detain immigrants was first provided by the Immigration Act 1971, which allowed the detention of asylum seekers in detention centres or even prisons. Prior to 2002 there were two types of detention centre: the removal centre and the removal prison. These were much like prison facilities, with the aim being to impose restrictions on the movement of the detainees, so that the government could monitor their whereabouts whilst their claims were being processed. Some were actually held in prisons.

The detention of asylum seekers in such austere conditions was widely condemned by human rights groups, politicians, and many others who insisted that they should not be treated like criminals. By 2001, the number of asylum seekers had reached an all-time high and the government embarked on a programme to provide a network of detention centres with the aim of moving towards a situation where no asylum seeker would be held in a prison. In addition, the ‘Detention Centre Rules 2001’ were introduced which stipulated the way in which the centres were to be run, ensuring humane treatment of all detainees. The Detention Centre Rules 2001 sets out the objectives of each holding centre as: “The purpose of detention centres shall be to provide for the secure but humane accommodation of detained persons in a relaxed regime with as much freedom of movement and association as possible, consistent with maintaining a safe and secure environment, and to encourage and assist detained persons to make the most productive use of their time, whilst respecting in particular their dignity and the right to individual expression.”

A particularly controversial and emotive topic is the detention of children in immigration removal centres. Following an unannounced visit to Yarl’s Wood centre by Anne Owers, the then Chief Inspector of Prisons, a report published in March 2010 concluded that many children were being held unnecessarily, often for long periods of time, and that this was having a noticeable adverse effect on the children’s well-being, causing “disruption and distress” to them and their families.

The problem of “hidden children” being held in immigration detention centres is also an issue. The IMB’s annual report revealed that six children who were held last year at Harmondsworth were removed by social services when it was established they were, in fact, children. After the IMB reported that: “Arrangements should be made for the rapid assessment of those claiming to be under 18,” the latest addition to the immigration removal estate “Cedars” in East Sussex was opened in August 2011. Cedars is a pre-departure accommodation centre for nine families who can be held for 72 hours or up to a week in “exceptional circumstances”. The government claims that with Cedars they have “put an end to child detention”. The facility is run by Group 4 with play facilities for children provided by Barnardo’s; despite several protests against Barnardo’s demanding that they cease their involvement in the deportation machine.

Read the rest here.

Families can claim damages after detention ruling

Armley Today
Published on Thu Jan 13 18:07:45 GMT 2011

Failed asylum seekers have won the right to claim damages which could run into thousands of pounds after the High Court ruled three young children were held at an immigration detention centre in Bedfordshire unlawfully.

The ruling was a legal victory for the mothers – Reetha Suppiah, 37, a Malaysian nurse, and Sakinat Bello, 25, a Nigerian national – who brought the legal challenge.

Both said a lack of safeguards at Yarl’s Wood in Bedfordshire, the UK’s main removal centre for women and minors, led to their children suffering distress and trauma.

Mr Justice Wyn Williams, sitting in London, ruled the Government’s current policy on detaining families with children pending deportation was not unlawful, but – in these cases – it had not been applied by the UK Border Agency (UKBA) “with the rigour it deserves”.

As a result, “the claimants were detained unlawfully from the time they were taken into custody until their release” and they were entitled to claim damages.

Read the rest here.

‘Outdated’ prisons to close as immigration centres expanded

The Guardian (UK)
Jan 13th 2011
By Alan Travis

Justice secretary unveils shake-up of penal system as part of plans to reduce number of people serving custodial sentences.

The capacity of Britain’s immigration deportation centres is to be expanded to nearly 3,500 as a result of today’s announcement by the justice secretary, Ken Clarke, that three “outdated and expensive” prisons would be closed.
One of the three prisons – Morton Hall, near Sowerby in Lincolnshire, which holds up to 392 female offenders – is to become Britain’s ninth immigration detention centre.

The perimeter fence at the women’s open prison is to be extended to include an extra resettlement unit within a new immigration deportation centre which will be staffed by retrained prison officers.

It will be run by the prison service but paid for by the Home Office.
The immigration minister, Damian Green, said Morton Hall was needed to boost the UK Border Agency’s ability to remove failed asylum seekers from Britain quickly and efficiently.

Read the rest here.