Published: 10:12, 10 January 2018
It is understood up to 11 prison officers have been suspended at one of Sheppey’s jails amid allegations of racism.
A Ministry of Justice spokesman confirmed that investigations had been launched, but refused to make any comment about the number of officers involved.
It is believed they all work at HMP Elmley at Eastchurch, which is mainly used to look after prisoners on remand awaiting sentencing.
The suspensions are thought to have happened just before Christmas.
The spokesman said: “We take all allegations of misconduct extremely seriously and are investigating these claims.
“While the vast majority of our prison staff are hard-working, we will not hesitate to take action where there is evidence of misconduct and work closely with the police to make sure those responsible feel the full force of the law.”
He added: “It would be inappropriate to comment further while investigations are ongoing.”
HMP Elmley was opened in 1992, and is category B/C men’s prison. It is the largest of Sheppey’s three jails with a capacity of 1,252.
An inquest last February heard that prison staff failed to protect 41-year-old traveller Levi Smith, who was suffering severe anxiety and hanged himself in his prison cell in November, 2014.
In June 2014, the prison made headlines when two inmates were filmed on a mobile phone being punched in the face by another inmate, allegedly in return for drugs.
Its latest annual report by the Independent Monitoring Board (IMB), for 2015 to 2016, said “a period of stability might now prevail”, having had five different governors in just seven years.
Recruiting staff had been a problem, said the report, a problem common to prisons across the country.
“The staff worked hard to make Elmley a safer, decent, less violent, and healthier prison, which it has achieved,” it said.
The IMB report on Elmley for 2016-2017 is due to be published at the end of this month.
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