Prison inspectors have released some startling figures in a report on HMP Ranby in Nottinghamshire. Shockingly, there have been six suicides in just 17 months at HMP Ranby and the prison continues to hit the headlines as the full extent of the problems at the prison become known.

Investigations into these deaths revealed a number of them involving new psychoactive substances, bullying and lack of suicide prevention procedures.

HMP Ranby is a Category C prison and has a population of approximately 1,000 male prisoners.

These criticisms come not long after an unannounced inspection in the summer of 2014 by HM Chief Inspector of Prisons, in which HMP Ranby was branded a “prison in crisis”. Over half of the prisoners interviewed reported that it was easy to obtain illegal drugs and the levels of victimisation and intimidation within the prison were concerning.

At the time of the 2014 inspection, inspectors were concerned about the easy availability of undetectable new psychoactive substances, other illicit drugs and diverted prescribed medication. Whilst the prison had taken some action in response, there was no coordinated action plan to reduce drug supply and demand.

The recent HM Inspectorate of Prisons inspection carried out in September 2015 revealed the prison being at risk of an overwhelming influx of new psychoactive substances known as “legal highs”. The report revealed one incident in which a group of prisoners forced their way into an office to retrieve a package of drugs thrown over the prison walls. The report said there had been a “surge” in legal highs, leaving prisoners in “high levels of debt and associated violence”.

Stricter systems need to be put in place to patrol drugs coming in and out of the prison which is overpopulated and understaffed. This is a widespread problem that Frances Crook, Chief Executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform, described as a symptom of a “much deeper problem” – too many prisoners and not enough staff.

The report also revealed “significant concerns” around safety, which have not improved from the previous inspection 17 months earlier, alongside a number of other concerns including:

  • Too many prisoners were held in the large house blocks with staff working there saying they felt unsafe
  • The number of violent incidents was higher than in similar establishments
  • Assaults on staff had increased significantly and a number of “very serious incidents” had occurred.

The report says in one incident a group of prisoners “muscled” their way into an office to retrieve a package of drugs thrown over the prison walls.

Martin Lomas, the Deputy Chief Inspector of Prisons, said: “We remain seriously concerned about the stability of the prison, the safety of prisoners and staff, and the inadequate measures being taken to prepare prisoners for release and reduce the risk they will re-offend”. Officials say they have reduced HMP Ranby’s prisoner population, increased staff numbers and are preparing to introduce new drug tests in prisons across England and Wales.

We are currently representing the bereaved mother of a previous inmate at HMP Ranby who sadly died in April of last year, after taking his own life. Toxicology revealed that the deceased had taken new psychoactive substances before he died and had raised a number of concerns with staff and other prisoners in the days leading up to his death which ought to have prompted staff to closely monitor his state of mind to ensure his safety. The circumstances surrounding his death and the concerning lack of care afforded by staff responsible for him has resulted in the case being referred to the CPS, Senior Crown Prosecutor for possible criminal charges. The inquest currently remains on hold pending the outcome of the CPS decision.

Following this death, the Prison and Probation Ombudsman made a number of recommendations to the prison including;

1. The Governor should ensure there that when prisoners need to be monitored because of concerns about their health or state of mind, there are explicit instructions, which staff follow, setting out responsibilities and the frequency required;

2. That the Governor should ensure there is an effective supply reduction strategy to help eradicate the availability of new psychoactive substances at HMP Ranby, that prison staff are vigilant for signs of its use and are briefed about how to respond when a prisoner appears to be under the influences of such substances.

The case continues.