Sodexo vows to take action at HMP Northumberland after Panorama exposé

HMP Northumberland
HMP Northumberland

The company running HMP Northumberland has issued a full statement, vowing to investigate and take action following the shocking and disturbing BBC Panorama exposé last night.

In the half-hour episode Behind Bars: Prison Undercover, undercover journalist Joe Fenton spent time inside the Acklington-based unit 'working' as a prison custody officer for two months. The programme showed numerous problems at the Category C adult prison, including inmates high on drugs, major lapses in security and staff struggling to cope.

Following the show, Sodexo Justice Services, which took over the running of the jail at the end of 2013, has issued a full statement.

A Sodexo spokesperson said: "We are a responsible and transparent provider and have worked with the Government in managing prisons for more than 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 highlighted 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 mainly showed negative opinions and incidents but it did not communicate 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 more than £3million 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 Ministry of Justice 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.”

The Ministry of Justice has said it would investigate the 'extremely serious allegations' at the prison.