Riot reported at Maidstone Prison
Investigators are set to probe a riot believed to involve around 40 inmates at Maidstone Prison.
It follows the disturbance, which involved specially trained officers in riot training being brought into the prison yesterday.
The Prison Officers Association initially reported that up to 180 inmates were being contained following the disturbance at the town centre jail - with specialist riot units from across the country deployed to tackle the situation.
The Prison Service dealt with the incident, which was first reported around 4.30pm with Kent Police maintaining a watching brief.
Disorder was believed to have been contained to one wing of the Category C prison which now holds mainly foreign nationals.
Now an investigation will look at a number of alleged factors leading up to the riots, which include claims prisoners' rights had been changed recently and the possibility of a shortage in prison officers.
A spokeswoman for the service said the incident had been resolved just after 7pm "with no injuries to staff or prisoners."
A fire engine at Maidstone prison this evening. Picture: @Kent_999s
Officers from what is known as the Tornado team are understood to have been dispatched to quell the violence. At least 30 riot officers left the prison at approximately 7.15pm, along with an ambulance, three fire engines and several dog units.
Hollering from prisoners inside the grounds could be clearly heard in the surrounding streets. A police cordon remained in place at the top of County Road.
The outbreak was believed to be contained to the Thanet wing of the Category C Prison.
Prison Officers Association, Vice Chair, Ralph Valerio, told reporters that negotiators were sent to the scene to contain the disturbance.
He said he had been told that, at one point, inmates were smashing up the Thanet wing and that prison officers had to retreat to safety.
Jackie Hipwell, landlady of The Swan pub in County Road, said: "I first realised there was something going on in the prison about 4pm today. I could hear prisoners shouting to each other.
"I could also hear some sort of strange monkey noises coming from the prisoners.
"Some vans pulled up in the road and officers dressed in riot gear got out. I thought they were police but someone told me they work as security for the Prison Service.
"There were some police cars and fire engines as well. The police cordoned off each end of the road (County Road) so you couldn't get in or out.
"My daughter had to go out earlier and they let her go but told her she wouldn't be able to get back into the road if the incident was still going on when she returned.
"It's been quite inconvenient but I never felt threatened or worried because there's a huge wall between us and the prison."
Mrs Hipwell said she did not see any fire or smoke during the incident.
Boxley Road residents William Mathias, 26, and Edward Sandeman, 24, were among the onlookers outside the building as emergency vehicles and officers came in and out of the site.
Mr Mathias said: "We saw it on the news and as we were so near we thought we'd come down and see what was happening. We've seen a lot of fire engines and police with riot shields. We haven't really heard any noise from inside though."
Earlier this year Maidstone Prison became responsible for foreign nationals, having previously been the sole domain of sex offenders.
The changes were partly the result of the planned closure of Canterbury Prison and Bullwood Hall Prison in Essex.
The jail in County Road had been a specialist establishment for sex offenders as well as foreigners since 2009.
Governor Dave Atkinson at Maidstone Prison
A statement from governor Andy Bell at the time of the announced changes in January, said: “There may be changes to staff roles but I am sure we will work together over the coming months to make this transition as smooth as possible.”
The Category C prison has a capacity of 600 inmates, of which around 40% are foreigners.
A dedicated project sponsor from the National Offender Management Service (NOMS) was appointed to support staff and managers during the change, which also included moving sex offenders to other prisons.
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