Levels of violence at a ‘very poor’ South Yorkshire prison are higher than at other jails, an official report has found.
HMP Doncaster, managed by Serco, has been branded inadequate by HM Inspectorate of Prison chiefs following their visit in October.
In the six months before the inspection there had been 365 assaults at the Marshgate prison.
Some of the incidents were very serious. In February 2015 a man died as a result of an assault, prompting a murder inquiry.
Deputy chief inspector of prisons Martin Lomas said: “We saw some very good people during our inspection, however, this report describes a very poor prison.
“The relative competence of the resettlement providers did not compensate for the inadequate standards. The lack of staff was a critical problem. The prison cannot be allowed to get any worse.”
Inspectors found some problems which had been highlighted in March 2014 and not been addressed – or had even worsened.
But they said the appointment of a new director had led to some improvements.
Despite efforts to understand what led to violence, inspectors found initiatives to address the issue were ineffective.
Eleven inmates died in the 18 months leading up to the inspection, including three who had taken their own lives. Hostage incidents had taken place, drugs were widely available and clean bedding hard to find.
But inspectors also said the quality of offender management was better than usual in local prisons and the small number of staff were doing their best.
Frances Crook, chief executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform, said:“Doncaster is a big private prison, opened in 1994, but it has already fallen into disrepair. Prisons with too many prisoners and too few staff will fail.”
Julia Rogers, Serco’s managing director for justice, said: “At the time of this inspection, we were four months into a rectification programme. We acknowledge that conditions at the time were unacceptable, but the programme is now nearly complete.
“We are continuing to address the issues raised in this inspection and safety has improved, violence is gradually reducing and the number of staff at the prison has increased by 38 per cent since October – we are no longer understaffed.”