Angry prisoner lifts lid on Doncaster jail 'run by inmates not staff' in emotional open letter

HMP and YOI Doncaster.
HMP and YOI Doncaster.

A prisoner has told how he was pushed to the brink of suicide by conditions inside a Doncaster jail which he claims is 'run by the inmates and not the staff'.

Dean Heaps said he was attacked by several others inside HMP and YOI Doncaster at Marshgate and was offered very little help by staff.

In an emotional open letter he said this pushed him to consider killing himself and claimed the running of the jail has been overtaken by inmates.

Police and prison bosses are investigating his assault allegations, which come just a year after a damning Government report labelled the jail as 'inadequate' and highlighted high levels of violence by inmates and low staffing levels.

In the letter Mr Heaps described how he wanted to lift the lid on what conditions are really like inside the jail.

He said: "It is run by the prisoners not the staff. I even said I was going to kill myself.

"I have been violated. I know I have done wrong but it still shouldn't have happened. I've been intimidated, there has been malicious gossip, I have been bullied and just told to go away, put in my cell and that's it.

"Please let people know what this place is really like - no control at all by staff."

He claimed he was approached by a number of prisoners on Friday, February 10, who demanded they give him some drugs he was allegedly concealing. When he told them he did not have any narcotics, one of them is alleged to have punched him in the face.

Mr Heaps, who did not reveal why he was in prison, said: "I was crying asking them to stop, but they just hit me and carried on. They told me to clean the blood off my face, get cleaned up and don't say anything or I would get hit some more."

A spokeswoman for South Yorkshire Police said: "I can confirm that we are investigating a reported assault at HMP Marshgate. Nobody has been charged in connection to the incident at this time and enquiries are ongoing."

In a report published in March last year, the HM Inspectorate of Prisons raised a number of concerns about the way the jail was being run. The report said in the six months prior to their visit in October 2015 there had been 365 assaults, including one occasion when a man died prompting a murder inquiry.

Inspectors also said that while the quality of offender management was better than usual in local prisons, the lack of staff numbers was causing concern.

The prison, which houses 1145 male inmates, is privately run by Serco and the firm stressed the safety of prisoners is paramount.

Jerry Spencer, Serco’s contract director at the jail, said: "There was an alleged assault on a prisoner in February involving a number of other inmates and as a result there is an ongoing police investigation.

"As always, our priority is the safety and care of both our staff and the prisoners and we have taken all appropriate steps to look after the individual concerned.

“A few months ago we introduced a Social Responsibility Unit at HMP Doncaster and this unique innovation has successfully reduced violence by about 36 per cent.”