Paramedics called out twice a week to G4S prison HMP Oakwood

 In Press

More problems reported at £278m privately-run Staffordshire jail

Paramedics have been called to a new flagship Staffordshire prison run by private security firm G4S more than twice a week since it opened last year.The emergency ambulance crews attended HMP Oakwood, near Featherstone, 117 times between April 2012 and January 2013.

They treated four prisoners who had been assaulted, 22 who had taken overdoses, 14 for psychiatric or suicide incidents and 79 others who suffered heart attacks and other medical conditions.

Justice Secretary Chris Grayling previously hailed the £278 million site as a good example of how a privately run jail could help reduce costs of housing prisoners.
It’s managers at G4S claimed it would be the ‘best prison in the world in five years’.

But the jail has been beset by problems with inmates’ families taking to internet forums to voice their concerns about its running, claiming that meals are often missed, guards are poorly trained and cell toilets do not work.

Last month we reported how one inmate’s mother claimed that a prisoner needed hospital treatment after getting drunk on illicit homemade hooch, brewed on the wing from bread and fruit.
Prison campaigners said the high number of ambulance call outs to HMP Oakwood showed that the prison’s problems were putting the public at risk.

“These figures indicate that G4S-run Oakwood is either a prison which is dangerously out of control, or one which dumps its problems on to the NHS because they are too expensive to deal with,” said Frances Crook, chief executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform.

“It is alarming that ambulances should be turning up at the prison gates every other day.

“The Justice Secretary, Chris Grayling, has singled out Oakwood as an example of how cheap prisons can be, but this story proves that cheap means the public is put in danger.

“The prison is designed to hold 1,600 adult men but only has work places for 400, so about 1,000 prisoners sit idle.

“These figures only add to our grave concerns about the welfare of inmates and staff.

“This is what happens when you hand the justice system over to vast multinational corporations, who put cost-cutting and the interests of their shareholders ahead of public safety.

“If Mr Grayling thinks this is the future, that future is dangerous.”

The Staffordshire jail was originally planned as a Titan Prison, with room for 2,500 inmates, but this plan was scaled back and the capacity set at 1,650.

HMP Oakwood deputy director Andy Sleight said prisoners had high rates of physical or mental health needs, which led to more call outs.

“The safety and welfare of those in our custody is our top priority and where we’re concerned for the health of a prisoner, it is right that we take appropriate action,” said Mr Sleight.

“Figures around healthcare in prisons should not be taken in isolation and it should also be remembered that we house the largest prisoner population in the country at HMP Oakwood.

“Many prisoners arrive with pre-existing medical needs and the majority of the call outs in these figures are to respond to those kinds of problems.

“While the health of the prison population cannot be directly compared with the general population, prisoners tend to have more physical and psychological problems, and I will continue to support staff who call for outside medical assistance where they believe there is a need to do so.”

From the Birmingham Mail

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