Prison chiefs rename failing ‘weapons amnesty’ campaign – as inmates didn’t understand the word
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Prison chiefs in West London were forced to rename a “weapons amnesty” campaign – after realising inmates didn’t understand the word ‘amnesty’.
Ahead of an inspection of cells at HMP Feltham, prisoners were invited to hand over potentially deadly items without facing any punishment.
Virtually nothing was handed in voluntarily, despite inmates sitting on a plethora of home-made weapons – including sharpened toothbrushes, broken toilet seats, nails and pool balls in socks.
A report into the jail last week noted: ‘A weapons amnesty was advertised with negligible results. It was later realised that people did not understand the meaning of “amnesty”.’
The front gate of HMP Feltham, also known as Feltham Young Offenders Institution, a prison for male juveniles and Young Offenders Institution in Hounslow, London
The word comes from the Greek word ‘amnestia’, meaning to pardon and forget.
HMP Feltham said the strategy had been renamed, adding: ‘Steps have been taken with other amnesties to take time to explain this.’
The report by the Independent Monitoring Boards (IMB) said: ‘Weapons continue to be fashioned from sharpened pieces of plastic including prison-issue cutlery, toothbrushes and toilet seats.
‘Finds of sharp objects, such as screws, nails or plugs in socks, are less common.’
The report also found that some prisoners carried weapons because it was ‘habitual in their lives prior to custody’.
It added: ‘They [said] they feel safer as they fear other young adults carry weapons. Staff try to identify prisoners with this mindset [and] the police advise the prison about young adults who are habitual knife-carriers.’
HMP Feltham is home to just under 400 inmates aged between 15 and 21. Violence at the institution has increased, with inmates now given ‘yellow cards’.
These lead to a loss of privileges which can include visits and canteen orders.
In the past year there have been 24 violent incidents at the jail per month – double the 12 occasions in the previous year.