HMP Five Wells: Justice secretary to ‘look into’ staff conditions at state-of-the-art prison exposed in Sky News report

Justice secretary Alex Chalk said he will probe conditions for staff at a Northamptonshire prison after an exclusive Sky News report.

Speaking from the Conservative Party conference in Manchester on Breakfast with Kay Burley, Mr Chalk said he has already “given instructions” to investigate HMP Five Wells.

Three prison guards told Sky News that the state-of-the-art super prison run by security firm G4S is under-equipped and short-staffed.

Read more: Staff warn of chaos and violence inside HMP Five Wells

They also said prisoners are allowed to run riot and there are too many inexperienced staff.

Mr Chalk said: “I was clear that we want to look into them rapidly, so I’ve given instructions [for inquiries] to take place, particularly in respect of equipment.”

He cited body-worn video as a key tool to “help dial-down confrontations”, but added that if they’re not working, “that’s something we need to look into”.

More on Prisons

Mr Chalk said the department has rolled out around £100m of equipment to help protect staff in prisons.

But he said as a result of the Sky News report, he has “already given instructions to senior leadership to look into this”.

One guard said assaults on staff are “a daily event” while another said they are constantly finding homemade or smuggled weapons in the prison.

One of the three whistleblowers said: “My fear is something major is going to happen there. Someone’s going to get stabbed, or somebody is going to get murdered within that prison, be it a staff member or a prisoner.”

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‘The prisoners run the prison’

“We get urine and faeces thrown in our face. We get spat at. We get things thrown at us.

“An officer got stabbed a few weeks ago. We get punched, kicked, tripped up, hit with pool cues. Something like that happens on a daily basis,” she said.

HMP Five Wells is the government’s solution to the antiquated Victorian prison estate, such as Wandsworth, from where recently an inmate escaped.

It was built between 2019 and 2021 on 36 acres of land near the town of Wellingborough, costing £253m.

HMP Five Bells
HMP Five Bells

It can hold 1,680 prisoners at full capacity.

G4S told Sky News that staff have adequate bodycams, radios and alarm buttons that can be pressed for assistance.

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