| BIRMINGHAM, England
BIRMINGHAM, England Hundreds of rioting prisoners took control of at least two wings of an English jail on Friday, authorities said, in the latest and most serious disturbance at a British prison this year.
The trouble erupted at HMP Birmingham in central England, which can hold 1,450 male prisoners, shortly after 0900 GMT, forcing staff to withdraw, according to G4S (GFS.L), the private firm that runs the prison.
“Our teams withdrew following a disturbance and sealed two wings, which include some administrative offices,” said Jerry Pethericka, Managing Director for G4S custodial and detention services. “The disturbance has since spread to two further wings. All staff have been accounted for.”
The Prison Officers’ Association (POA), which represents jail staff, said the incident involved about 300 inmates.
“It’s understood a set of keys giving access to residential areas was taken from an officer and that offenders have since occupied some blocks and exercise facilities,” West Midlands Police said in statement.
G4S said extra officers had been sent to the jail near Birmingham city centre which was built in 1849. Specialist riot control officers and dog units had also been deployed to attempt to regain control.
The company said due to the severity of the incident, the Prison Service had taken charge of the operation.
“The situation is contained, the perimeter is secure and there is no risk to the public,” the Ministry of Justice said in a statement. “We are absolutely clear that prisoners who behave in this way will be punished and could spend significantly longer behind bars,”
There have been several serious incidents in jails this year including an alleged murder, and last month prisoners took over parts of Bedford prison in central England before police and extra prison officers were drafted in to restore control.
A week after the Bedford incident, thousands of prison officers in England and Wales walked out in protest at rising levels of jail violence and concerns about the health and safety of staff and inmates.
The government has unveiled plans to reform prisons and improve safety, but the Prison Governors’ Association (PGA) said jails were in a parlous state because of a decline in pay and the cutting of staff numbers.
“The prison service is around 800 uniformed staff short and the cavalry of the promised additional 2,500 staff are months and years away from arriving,” it added in a statement.
(Reporting by Michael Holden; editing by Stephen Addison and Mark Trevelyan)