Professor Nick Hardwick, former Chief Inspector of Prisons, told the Commons Justice Committee that a shortage of long-term prison officers had given organised criminals carte blanche to rule over the inmate population.
“What’s certainly happened in some prisons is an alternative structure has developed where prisoners are running too much of what is happening,” he said.
“I’m quite sure that in some prisons the absence of experienced staff has left a vacuum that organised crime has filled,” he added.
This lack of long-term workers has emerged due to poor pay and conditions for recruits and the risk of violence they have to contend with everyday, Professor Hardwick continued.
“You get punched. Why would you turn up to work with these levels of violence?” he explained.
“Secondly … you can earn more money in comparable or less stressful jobs close by.”
His comments follow official reports of violent prisoners acting with “near impunity” at HMP Birmingham and a “looming lack of control” over the inmate population, as well as warnings that prisoners were effectively running HMP Bedford prison, where violence, overcrowding and vermin infestation were also noted.