MAJOR concerns were today raised about the running of a prison where a South Tyneside man took his own life.
Raymond Scott, who was born and educated in South Shields, was sentenced to eight years behind bars in 2010 for handling stolen goods – a rare edition of Shakespeare’s First Folio from Durham University Library.
In March 2012, the 55-year-old committed suicide in what is now the privately-run HMP Northumberland – formerly Acklington Prison.
A report released today by HM Inspectorate of Prisons called for improvements at the site, which holds 1,300 male inmates.
Scott was one of three self-inflicted deaths at HMP Northumberland since 2012 and, although the prison had been monitoring the implementation of recommendations from investigations into the deaths, scrutiny was recently found to have lapsed.
Inspectors say they were concerned to find that not all prisoners received a thorough initial risk assessment or induction, prisoners said they felt less safe at Northumberland than at comparable prisons and recorded assaults were high.
The report says work to confront bullying and violence lacked rigour.
In late 2013 the prison was taken over by the private sector provider, Sodexo, and it was concluding the transition process at the time of the inspection.
Nick Hardwick, Chief Inspector of Prisons, said: “The prison now approaches its fourth year of ongoing change, most of it very significant.
“The new providers appeared to have established themselves and there seemed to be a renewed focus on actual service delivery.
“However, overall this is a fairly critical report. Safety outcomes have worsened and in most other respects it would be true to say the prison has yet to start improving.”
Michael Spurr, chief executive officer of the National Offender Management Service, said: “As the chief inspector acknowledges, this has been a challenging time for HMP Northumberland, as the prison has adapted to a number of significant changes.
“Progress has been made in a number of areas, including the provision of more work and education placements, and Sodexo are committed to delivering further improvements to support effective rehabilitation.
“As with any prison, safety is a priority and we will ensure that Sodexo use the recommendations of this report to improve safety outcomes for both prisoners and staff .”
The report comes less than six months after a report by the Prisons and Probation Service Ombudsman found what it called deficiencies in Scott’s care.
It revealed how Scott initially settled into prison life, but his mood began to change in early 2012.
He became preoccupied with how long he had left to serve and during much of February he was put on suicide and self-harm watch.
He made several phone calls to the Samaritans and had spoken at length to them – so much so they got in touch with the prison and an officer arranged a personal visit for Scott with the charity.
In March, he told a fellow inmate how he intended to take his own life that night.
The report said the prisoner told staff about it although there was no record.
The next day, Scott was found dead after he had cut his own throat.