In Brief

Oakwood disturbance was 'riot' say prisoners

Claims of major incident at privately-run G4S prison which was site of rooftop protest last year

oakwood-prison.jpg

A TEN-HOUR disturbance at the privately-run prison, HMP Oakwood, was a "near riot" involving up to 50 prisoners, the BBC has learned. 

Operator G4S says the incident, which took place on Sunday night, ended peacefully after a few hours. But the BBC understands the disturbance lasted ten hours after a group of prisoners barricaded themselves into a wing and smashed windows.

G4S says between 15 and 20 prisoners were involved in the disturbance and one prisoner was treated for "minor injuries". But the BBC says that the number of prisoners involved was closer to 50 and officers in riot gear were called in to end the standoff.

Oakwood, near Wolverhampton, houses about 1,600 category C and D prisoners. The categories denote prisoners who are deemed less of a security risk than those categorised as A and B.

G4S said prisoners had threatened officers and caused damage to property. The company added that some prisoners returned to their cells voluntarily and said reports that prison officers had been held hostage were "completely untrue".

The BBC points out that Oakwood has had a chequered history since it opened in April, 2012. In October, an inspectors' report said the facility was failing to tackle a drug problem, with inmates claiming that narcotics were easier to obtain than soap.

The prison was also the scene of a high-profile protest last year when three prisoners forced their way onto the roof.

Inmates have told the Birmingham Mail that the latest incident was sparked by criminals from Wales and London who are "furious over the distance friends and family have to travel for visits". One prisoner described the alleged riot as "inevitable" and warned of further violence by inmates who have dubbed the G4S-run jail "Jokewood".

G4S says an investigation into Sunday's incident is underway.

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