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Independent Monitoring Board report warns lack of staff at Maidstone prison, County Road, could lead to more rioting and inmate deaths

By Claire McWethy

A report has warned that under-staffing at Maidstone prison could lead to more rioting and even the deaths of inmates.

The county town became the centre of a national emergency in November when 40 prisoners went on the rampage, smashing up one of the wings.

But six months on, a report by the Independent Monitoring Board (IMB) raises concerns there will be a rise in serious incidents at the category C jail if staffing cuts are not reviewed.

Back-up was drafted in during the riot at HMP Maidstone

It found that the riots happened following the transfer of 150 inmates from a Dorset prison, which led to extended lock-up times, problems with catering and a delay in prisoners receiving their property.

The IMB describes current resourcing as “insufficient for the prison’s new role” leaving it open to further rioting and serious incidents including deaths in custody.

Four prisoners have died there since February 2013.

But the report has not specified the number of staff working there now, or the levels believed to be adequate.

Last November's riot at HMP Maidstone. Officers in riot gear are seen leaving the building

There were also serious concerns over the provision of care for prisoners at risk of self-harm.

The County Road jail holds up to 600 inmates in four wings.

Until last year it was primarily occupied by sex offenders but has since been designated solely for foreign nationals due to the planned closure of Canterbury Prison.

Among the problems listed in the IMB report is that 32 inmates remain in the prison despite completing their sentence, due to deportation issues.

In the report the board demands a solution, stating: “Some of these detainees are violent and likely to re-offend but may be released into the community as there is no potential for deportation.”

New governor Dave Atkinson at Maidstone Prison

Most of the current prisoners are due to leave the UK at end of their sentence or when their home country accepts them.

The report noted that the new population was more unpredictable and communication problems arose as 39 languages are spoken.

Governor Dave Atkinson was said to be concerned about the increasing use of synthetic cannabis, known as SPICE, which is difficult to detect in drugs tests.

Board members praised staff for coping with the changes, but noted that morale was low.

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