The security in prisons across the UK has been called into serious question once again after inmates appear to have set up a "Prison TV" Facebook page, uploading videos of their illegal antics behind bars using smuggled mobile phones. Footage taken from inside cells shows inmates making a mockery of prison rules by filming Fight Club-style brawls, inmates dancing naked while on so-called "legal highs" and even dance-off challenges with other prisons.
In one disturbing clip, a prisoner is seen screaming and begging for mercy as he is punched repeatedly in the face by another inmate. The brutal attack ends with the victim in a headlock as his attacker smiles to the camera.
Another clip exposed the ease with which prisoners were using social media across the penal system, with inmates challenging each other to inter-prison dance-offs.
It comes as a parliamentary report this month revealed prisons across England and Wales had suffered a "rapid deterioration" in disorder. It said prison officers had lost control of inmates to such an extent, riot squads were being called into jails on average once a day.
Steve Gillan, general secretary of the Prison Officers Association (POA), said he was "sickened" by the videos recently uploaded to Facebook. He said: "These videos are extremely disturbing and highlight the urgent need for Justice Secretary Michael Gove to take action.
"He has to get back to basics and ensure the smuggling of contraband and staffing issues are properly addressed before embarking on wider reform of the prison service."
The possession of mobile phones in prison is a criminal offence due to security concerns. They have been used by inmates to smuggle in drugs and weapons, as well as intimidate witnesses.
In one case last year, an inmate was able to smuggle at least eight Skorpion machine guns into the UK from his cell in Wandsworth prison – a security breach branded a "scandal" by a judge.
Prison officers confiscated almost 40,000 SIM cards and mobile phones from inmates between 2010 and 2014, figures provided by the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) show. In 2013, some 7,451 mobile phones and SIM cards were seized in prisons across the UK. In 2014, this had risen to 9,572.
The MoJ says it uses a "range of devices" to catch mobile phones, including signal detectors and body scanners. Chancellor George Osborne announced in his spending review the Treasury would provide further funding for tackling illicit mobile phones.
But the videos – which were uploaded to a now-closed Facebook page called HMP TV – show prisons still awash with mobile phones. They also reveal a disturbing lack of supervision by prison guards.
In one clip, a young inmate climbs into a tumble dryer in the prison laundry, before it is switched on. No guards are in sight.
Another sees a large group of inmates gather around two prisoners as they fight each other, with one man's face dripping in blood. Again, no prison guards are in sight.
The Justice Committee found a cut in staff numbers had left prisons understaffed. As a result, the POA warned the scale of disorder inside establishments had now reached "unprecedented levels".
A Prison Service spokesperson said of the recent videos uploaded to Facebook: "This is completely unacceptable. It is a criminal offence to bring a mobile phone into prison or transmit sounds or images from within a prison using a mobile phone, and anyone convicted can face up to two years in prison.
"Inmates are also banned from directly accessing social-media accounts while they are in prison and we take swift action to have these accounts closed as soon as we are made aware of them.
"We have measures in place to detect mobiles in our prisons but we have to look at new ways of blocking them, as well as equipping prison officers with the right tools to tackle this issue."