UK restores order after prison uprising

2016-12-17 20:15
Smoke rises above a prison in Birmingham after disturbances by inmates spread to four wings and a specialist riot squad was deployed. (Joe Giddens, AP)

Smoke rises above a prison in Birmingham after disturbances by inmates spread to four wings and a specialist riot squad was deployed. (Joe Giddens, AP)

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London - Security officers on Saturday restored order at a prison in the central English city of Birmingham a day after an estimated 600 inmates seized control and launched a destructive rampage.

Authorities called Friday's 13-hour takeover of HMP Birmingham the worst prison uprising since the 1990 riot in Strangeways in Manchester, which lasted 25 days and left one prisoner dead.

No staff members were injured but one prisoner remained hospitalised on Saturday with a suspected broken jaw and eye socket.

Trouble flared as prisoners rushed a guard and stole his keys, giving them eventual access to all four wings of the Victorian-era prison in England's second-largest city. Inmates lit fires, set off fireworks, broke into guards' offices to steal clubs and helmets and smashed windows and toilet blocks.

A stream of security vans came and went from the prison on Saturday. The Justice Ministry said at least 240 Birmingham inmates were being transferred to other prisons nationwide while more than 1 000 remaining would face greater restrictions on movement.

Staff cuts

Justice Minister Liz Truss said the security failure will be fully investigated, while those convicted of rioting will face longer sentences.

But prison officer leaders and other authorities warned that the scale of the latest unrest underscored a system-wide crisis of understaffing and overcrowding.

They pointed to a string of trouble in the past two months, starting with the stabbing death of an inmate on October 18 inside Pentonville in north London, a riot on October 29 in Lewes south of the capital and another riot in Bedford on November 6.

Mike Rolfe, chairperson of the Prison Officers Association, said overcrowding and staff cuts meant Britain inevitably would face disorder.

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