A programme by BBC Panorama was broadcast on Monday 13 February at 8.30pm. Sodexo provided the following response to BBC Panorama.
“We are a responsible and transparent provider and have worked with the Government in managing prisons for over 17 years. We take seriously the issues and concerns raised in the programme which will be investigated and we will take appropriate action.
“This programme highlights many of the issues – such as the impact of drugs and the rise of violence – that have increased in recent years across all prisons. The programme has mainly shown negative opinions and incidents but has not communicated the many positive actions and improvements that we have made at HMP Northumberland to address these issues.
“Security and the safety of our staff and prisoners are our top priority and we have invested over £3m in a new fire system, additional CCTV and improved security technology. We continually review the staffing levels at the prison and as a result have recruited an additional 37 staff. We welcome the MOJ’s decision to invest extra money to boost the number of frontline officers.
“We have worked closely with law enforcement agencies which have resulted in significant success in preventing prisoners’ frequent attempts of illegal activity.
“Rehabilitation of prisoners is key for us and since taking on the contract to run Northumberland we have doubled the number of prisoner hours spent in work, education and vocational skills training.
“We are committed to supporting our staff who do a professional job in a very challenging and difficult environment.”
Frequently Asked Questions
Is there enough staff to run the prison safely?
Prisons are a challenging environment to manage. We continually review our staffing and procedures to ensure we maintain the safety and security of our prisoners, staff and visitors, which remains our absolute priority.
Since the contract commenced, we have recruited an additional 37 staff.
Has the security been reduced at the prison?
The prison is fully compliant with the national security standards.
We have made significant investments over and above contract requirements, including the investment of £3m in a new fire safety system, additional CCTV and improved security technology.
Is there a problem with drugs and mobile phones being smuggled into the prison?
Every prison faces challenges of prisoners trying to obtain illicit items, such as mobile phones. At HMP Northumberland we have worked hard to build strong partnerships with law enforcement agencies and have achieved significant successes in the battle to disrupt drug supply and illegal activity.
How is HMP Northumberland performing as a training/working prison?
Since Sodexo took over, we have doubled the working hours for prisoners and significantly increased the numbers of prisoners who have access to work, education and vocational skills. We have worked with external organisations to provide positive, rehabilitative working opportunities and we also deliver a range of rehabilitative courses designed to help prisoners address their offending behaviour.
Is there an issue with violence in the prison?
The whole prison estate in England has seen a significant increase in violent incidents over the last few years. This has been well reported by the media and we work together with the Ministry of Justice who are developing system wide approaches to combat violence in prisons.
Do you report all incidents to the Ministry of Justice?
We have rigorous processes for reporting and managing incidents in the prison. We work closely with the on-site Ministry of Justice monitoring team and we report all incidents.