Undercover BBC investigation exposes problems at HMP Northumberland

HMP Northumberland.
HMP Northumberland.

Troubles at HMP Northumberland will be exposed in a television programme next week, following an undercover investigation.

The Acklington-based Category C unit will feature on BBC One’s Panorama on Monday at 8.30pm.

HMP Northumberland.

HMP Northumberland.

A blurb for the episode, entitled Behind Bars: Prison Undercover, states: ‘An undercover investigation reveals the reality of life behind bars in Britain’s crisis-hit prison system.

‘Footage recorded by a reporter also working as an officer at a Category C adult prison shows how inmates are effectively running the prison, with many of them off their heads on drugs and drink.

‘It also reveals how prison officers don’t feel able to maintain control and how they are at risk themselves. In one incident a senior officer is seen on the ground, shaking and having a fit after accidentally inhaling the drug spice being smoked by prisoners.’

The male-only prison is run by Sodexo Justice Services and last night a spokesman for the jail confirmed that HMP Northumberland is the Category C adult prison to feature in the show.

He added: “There’s not much more I can say until the show is broadcast, but the one thing I can add is in the synopsis of the programme there is reference to an individual at the prison. This individual has not consented to being filmed.”

A spokeswoman for the programme said that she could not comment any more about the episode at this stage.

Over the last few years, the prison – taken over by Sodexo in December 2013 – has been hitting the headlines for all the wrong reasons and Northumberland MPs Anne-Marie Trevelyan, Guy Opperman and Ian Lavery have all raised concerns.

In November, shocking video footage emerged showing prisoners partying in a cell rave and apparently high on drink and drugs.

Last summer, a report published by the Independent Monitoring Board raised a number of issues about the prison, listing substance misuse as its most serious area of concern. But the report did praise aspects of the jail and said that welcome and encouraging progress had been made on safety.

The document was released a month after the Gazette reported staff concerns about safety at the prison, with one guard fearing it would only be a matter of time before someone was killed.

Despite some of the problems, the prison is working hard to forge links with the community. Towards the end of last year, new benches, made by inmates at the jail, were unveiled in Amble.