prison bars officer
Serco-run HMP Doncaster has been slated in a report today amid news that suicide and self-harm is at an all time high among inmates. Getty

HMP Doncaster is the latest prison to face heavy criticism from monitoring body, Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Prisons (HMIP), for locking up inmates in cells without electricity or running water for more than two days.

The prison is privately run by Serco, which operates six adult prisons in the UK. HMIP found that levels of violence in the prison were four times higher than in any other prison and prisoners are routinely locked in cells for days at a time without basic human provisions.

"The prison was experiencing real drift and performance was in decline", said chief inspector of prisons, Nick Hardwick, in a report released by HMIP on Wednesday. "Some staff seemed overwhelmed by the challenges confronting them and needed more support."

Some "extremely violent" incidents had been referred to the police and there had been a recent incident where a wing had been damaged by fire and vandalism, states the report.

It has been announced this week that Serco is experiencing a half-year loss of £7.3 million amid a major scandal in March when it was revealed that the outsourcing company had charged the UK government for tagging criminals who were either dead or already in jail.

Suicides in prisons jump 69% in a year

Today's report comes at the same time as troubling statistics have been released by the Prison and Probation Ombudsman detailing the huge rise in suicides and self-harm in British prisons.

Bleak figures released by the Ministry of Justice also show a huge leap in the number of on-the-run inmates last year, and more deaths in custody than in any previous year.

The number of suicides among prisoners has jumped 69% in just one year, the ombudsman said, but Justice Secretary Chris Grayling has responded by saying the statistics should be viewed within the context that "in Britain, we're seeing an increase in suicides in society as a whole".

Rather than prisons punishing and reforming offenders, under this Government they've become dangerous warehouses, putting public safety at risk.
- Sadiq Khan MP, Shadow Justice Secretary

Grayling's comments have commanded a backlash from penal reform campaigners such as The Howard League, who have criticised his dismissal of the "growing crisis in Britain's jails".

The ombudsman's report also reveals that a fifth of 18 to 20-year-old prisoners examined had experienced bullying in the month before their death.

In one case, an inmate with a history of mental health problems and suicide attempts discovered his girlfriend had ended their relationship on the same afternoon he was told a close relative had died. Despite this, the inmate's level of risk was not assessed and he was found hanging in his cell two days later.

Shadow justice secretary Sadiq Khan, who is hosting Labour's Prisons Crisis Summit on Wednesday, will tell the gathering of prison governors, officers and charities: "The Government pretends all is well in our jails. But there is a yawning leadership gap under David Cameron and Chris Grayling.

"Chris Grayling can't keep denying there's a prisons crisis when respected independent experts link the surge in suicides and violence to the Government's policies.The chaos can be seen by the surge in the number of times the riot squad has been called out, rises in assaults on prison staff, increases in suicides and the rise in the number of prisoners going on the run.

"Rather than prisons punishing and reforming offenders, under this Government they've become dangerous warehouses, putting public safety at risk."

Wyn Jones, Serco's Director of Custodial Operations said: "We fully accept the recommendations that are made in this in this HMCIP report and we have already launched a major improvement programme. We are absolutely determined that Doncaster will once more become a prison of which everyone can be proud."