Riot squad sent after inmates seize parts of prison

Associated Press

London — Dozens of riot officers were sent into a prison in the English city of Birmingham Friday after inmates took control of several wings of the medium-security facility.

The prison, HMP Birmingham, is run by the private security company G4S.

There were no reported injuries among prison staff during the disturbance, which began at about 0900 GMT (0400 a.m. EST) and continued all day.

Jerry Petherick, G4S managing director for custodial and detention services, said the disturbance involved four wings and “some administrative offices” at the prison, 120 miles north of London.

The Ministry of Justice said “the situation is contained, the perimeter is secure and there is no risk to public.”

The facility can hold up to 1,450 inmates. Most were locked in their cells while several hundred were involved in the riot.

There was a heavy police presence outside the prison, and the sounds of cheering, smashing and banging could be heard from inside the perimeter wall, where at least one fire burned.

Prisoners told the BBC that poor conditions, including frequent all-day lockdowns, sparked the frustration that led to the trouble.

The unrest comes at a time when Britain’s prisons are under intense pressure from growing inmate numbers and staffing cuts. The prison staff union said violence and inmate suicides are rising.

Some 200 prisoners rioted last month at Bedford Prison in southern England, and guards staged a nationwide walkout before courts ordered them to return to work.

Prison Officers Association National Chair Mike Rolfe said the Birmingham incident was “another stark warning to the Ministry of Justice that the service is in crisis.”