The prisons minister has refused to say he will resign if HMP Birmingham does not improve after an inspection report found violence, widespread drug use and squalid conditions.
Rory Stewart was praised last week after he pledged to quit in one year if 10 other prisons were not turned around.
But asked if the same commitment applied to HMP Birmingham, he told BBC Radio 4′s Today programme: “I am not going to get into giving a blank cheque to resign on every prison in the country.”
The Ministry of Justice has stepped in to take direct control of HMP Birmingham. The jail has been privately run by G4S since 2011.
In a report published today, the Chief Inspector of Prisons Peter Clarke warned the prison, one of the biggest in the UK, has “slipped into crisis” following a “dramatic deterioration” in the last 18 months.
Stewart said he remained “absolutely serious” about his promise to resign if 10 state-run prions failed to improve.
Speaking to Sky News, Stewart also rejected accusations the problems in Birmingham prison were due to austerity.
“In this case this isn’t. You can make that perfectly valid criticism about government cuts elsewhere, in this case this isn’t government cuts,” he said.
Richard Burgon MP, Labour’s Shadow Justice Secretary, said the crisis at HMP Birmingham showed no more prisons should be privatised.
“This should be a nail in the coffin for the flawed idea of prison privatisation. The government must scrap its recently announced plans to build yet more private prisons,” he said.
Clarke’s assessment detailed how:
– Violence had increased, including serious assaults that left prisoners and staff requiring hospital treatment.
– Communal areas in most wings were “filthy”, there were widespread problems with cockroaches and vermin, and blood and vomit was left uncleaned.
– The smell of cannabis and other burning substances pervaded many areas, with Clarke saying he felt “physically affected” by drugs in the atmosphere.
– While some staff were clearly competent, relationships with inmates had deteriorated and there was a “general lack of order” on some wings.
– In one bullying case a man had a poster with the message “Say No to BO” stuck on his door and was “hosed down” by other prisoners who put a fire hose through his observation panel.